The main courtyard of Coalinga State Hospital.
Louis Theroux, a journalist from the UK, visits the mental hospital in Coalinga and talks with pedophiles and therapists in an hour-long BBC documentary called Where they keep the paedophiles.
Coalinga Mental Hospital in California contains convicted pedophiles the state has decided cannot be released. The men have served their prison sentences, but have been diagnosed as mentally ill by the state because of their pedophilia. The state will not release the men until they are no longer considered a threat.
The documentary raises some questions. Will any of these men change? Are the men being deceptive when they say they have changed? Are they merely parroting their therapist’s psychobabble? Are the therapists – who say that pedophilia can’t be cured – telling the truth to their "patients?" Is the entire "hospital" a deception?
But the main problem Coalinga faces is that the vast majority of patients are refusing any kind of treatment.
This is mostly because they feel they shouldn’t have been sent to Coalinga in the first place.
They feel that they aren’t mentally ill, that they committed crimes, for which they’ve done their time, and that they should no longer be locked up. They view the therapy programme as a charade, designed to keep them locked up indefinitely.
I spoke to several men not involved in therapy. They were indignant at the idea that they might have psychiatric problems. When I asked one, Mr Yahn, if he had considered treatment, he said: "Would you get treatment for a headache?".
Another patient, trying to excuse his transgressions, blamed the fact that he’d molested children on an alcohol problem – as though paedophilia was something anyone might be capable of, given a few too many drinks.
Men like these are clearly damaged. But one part of the argument is on their side. The record shows that in the more than 10 years the SVP programme has existed, of the hundreds that have come to Coalinga, only 13 have ever graduated and left the hospital through the therapy route.
And so there is a kind of stand-off at Coalinga – with mistrustful patients arrayed against a therapeutic establishment. Despite the therapeutic language and the kindly atmosphere, for the vast majority of men at Coalinga, the hospital might as well be a prison or a warehouse or indeed a pod in outer space for all the good it’s doing them.
– Where they keep the paedophiles. BBC News Magazine>>
– Coalinga State Hospital>>
– Louis Theroux – A Place For Paedophiles, Documentary Heaven>>