Behind the Gates of Gomorrah

A Year with the Criminally Insane


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 was seething, 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 person does that?”

I edged 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 on his way to dinner with the rest of the patients.

“Thanks, Doc,” he said with a wave.


A darker twist on Orange is the New Black, this true insider’s account delivers an eye-opening look into the nation’s largest state-run forensic hospital, a facility that houses the real-life Hannibal Lecters of the world.

Behind the Gates of Gomorrah affords an eye-opening look inside a facility to which few people have ever had access. Honest, rueful, and at times darkly funny, Seager’s gripping account of his rookie year blends memoir with a narrative science, explaining both the aberrant mind and his own, at times incomprehensible, determination to remain in a job with a perilously steep learning curve.

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