BBC might film documentary at Atascadero State Hospital

Atascadero State Hospital
Atascadero State Hospital dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A documentary team with the BBC is exploring the possibility of filming at Atascadero State Hospital, officials with the California Department of State Hospitals confirmed Friday.

Few details were publicly disclosed by the BBC because the project is still being developed, but a crew visited Atascadero State Hospital this week to do “research for a potential project,” said Kathy Gaither, chief deputy director of the Department of State Hospitals.

The work is related to a 2009 documentary by British journalist Louis Theroux, which was about Coalinga State Hospital, in Central California.

The 45-minute piece, titled "A Place for Paedophiles," offered an in-depth look at patients undergoing treatment and a brief background on their crimes.

Coalinga State Hospital, the newest of the state’s five hospitals for mentally ill offenders, began treating sexually violent predators — the same group of men who were transferred from ASH — in fall 2005.

The BBC revisited the idea of doing additional work with the state’s other mental hospitals earlier this year.

The Department of State Hospitals agreed to provide some access to the network's crew, such as the ability to meet with patients who agreed to talk with them.

“We decided that we would be interested in working with the BBC again because we think the work we do is so important and that the BBC will educate the public in all of the treatment programs we have for patients,” Gaither told The Tribune.