Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: A Year with the Criminally Insane

Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: A Year with the Criminally Insane

by Stephen Seager

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476774503
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 09/16/2014
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 450,833
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Stephen Seager is a board-certified psychiatrist, a former assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and a multiply published author. His work has been featured on national television and radio, including Oprah, GMA, NPR, and Larry King, among others.

Read an Excerpt

Behind the Gates of Gomorrah


  • Raymond Boudreaux and I sat at opposite ends of a rickety wooden table—with him nearest to the door. This was a mistake.

    Two fluorescent ceiling tubes lit the cramped space, and the walls were war-surplus beige. A single small window in the door looked out into a hallway.

    The July air hung musty and still. My chair made a tiny screech against the chipped linoleum floor as I slid it forward.

    “Mr. Boudreaux, good afternoon,” I said. “I’m Dr. Seager.”

    Boudreaux didn’t reply. Clad in robin’s-egg-blue hospital scrubs, he was a hulking black man with shoulders wide as goalposts. I felt fixed in his gaze.

    “Mr. Boudreaux . . . ?” I tried again. Boudreaux’s eyes didn’t waver. I shifted uncomfortably, wondering how long someone could actually go without blinking.

    A psychiatrist, I’d recently been hired to run an inpatient unit at a large state forensic mental hospital. It was the kind of dangerous, unsettling place made familiar by the fictitious Baltimore State in The Silence of the Lambs. After a week of training, Raymond Boudreaux was the first patient I’d talked to alone. I was rushing to get home. It was late, and the room had been convenient.

    “I’m your new doctor,” I persisted. “How are you feeling, sir?”

    Another pause. Then Boudreaux’s impassive face changed. “You’re a bloodsucker, aren’t you?” He smiled, his Creole-tinged voice smooth as glass. He tipped his head and studied me like a curious dog. His eyes narrowed. My heart leaped.

    A forensic mental hospital isn’t like a regular mental hospital. The patients aren’t just psychotic. They’re also criminals. They’re the school shooters, James Holmeses, and Jeffrey Dahmers of the world. I’d seen Raymond Boudreaux on CNN when he was first arrested.

    Boudreaux’s breathing accelerated. “You and that fucking district attorney,” he said. “You’re both in this together. I know your kind. You’ll beat a man to death, then suck the blood out of his corpse.”

    Boudreaux, a New Orleans native, had graduated from Yale with an MBA. He’d worked in management for a bank in San Francisco. Then he became ill. A month after his termination, he killed his boss and several coworkers with a shotgun.

    “I’m going to strangle that faggot DA,” Boudreaux snarled as he stood. “Or you.” His massive frame partially obscured the door and I became acutely aware of the seating error. Panicked, I stood as well.

    With hands as large as skillets, Boudreaux grabbed the edges of the table and pushed it forward, pinning my thighs to the wall. My chair clattered to the floor. I looked frantically toward the small window into the hallway but saw nothing. I reached for the belt alarm we’d been issued for situations like this and remembered that it was still in my office.

    Sweat rolled off the crest of Boudreaux’s shaven head. “Don’t move, you son of a bitch,” he seethed, and pushed the table harder.

    Amid the terrified jumble in my head, an old piece of advice appeared: “If you’re ever cornered by an angry patient,” a medical school instructor had once told me, “keep talking.”

    “Tell me about your crime.”

    The veins in Boudreaux’s neck bulged and his eyes widened. The table hit bone in my legs. He took a couple of choppy breaths, and then the pressure on my legs waned. Boudreaux’s head dropped and his stare softened.

    He let go of the table, sat back down, and put a hand on his forehead. He looked smaller. He looked mortal.

    “I killed my closest friends,” Boudreaux said slowly. “What kind of a person does that?”

    I edged out from behind the table.

    “A person with an illness does that,” I said, sidling toward the door. I reached around a slumped Boudreaux and grabbed the door handle. “That’s why you’re here and not in prison. You’re not bad, you’re sick.”

    Opening the door, I glanced down the long hallway and hurriedly waved toward Lola Palanqui, a unit nurse, and two strapping psych techs, who hustled toward me. My legs began to tremble, but I managed to turn back to Boudreaux.

    “Will you be okay?”

    Boudreaux said nothing.

    “The staff will help you back to your room,” I said, and stumbled aside as the cavalry arrived.

    The two techs escorted Boudreaux back down the hall.

    Dark hair, thirties, Palanqui stood before me with her hands on her hips. We were nearly toe-to-toe. For the second time, I’d been backed against a wall. Although I grimaced in pain, she glared up at me.

    “Were you in there alone with Mr. Boudreaux?” Palanqui asked in Tagalog-accented English.

    “Yes . . .”

    “Didn’t they tell you not to do that?”

    “Yes . . .”

    “He could have killed you.”

    I caught a breath. “I know. It was really fright—”

    “Didn’t you learn anything from that terrible first day?” she said.

    I touched the stitches in the back of my head. “I just thought . . .”

    I didn’t know what to say.

    “We need you, Doc,” Palanqui said, and touched my arm. “Please get smarter.”

    I sank to the floor. I’d taken the state hospital job thinking I could help. But I was on my way to getting myself or someone else killed.

    Boudreaux called from the end of the hallway. He was walking to dinner with the rest of the patients.

    “Thanks, Doc,” he said with a wave.

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    Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: A Year with the Criminally Insane 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This really opened my eyes and mind to the institutions that house the criminally insane. Dr. Seager's reality while working in this particular state-run institution is very upsetting and frustrating.
    efm More than 1 year ago
    Loved it, east read. I worked in a Max. Security Psych facility for three years and this story was what it was like.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I understand totally about the powers that be have created a whose new disease.homeless in the sfreets.how they can accept this tragedy id beyound me
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I bought the book to give me a feel for what goes on inside the fence. This book gives a good feel for what its like being in a state mental hospital. Great read ! Definitely recommended for anyone considering working in a mental hospital.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago