Theroux returns

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 by

BBC2 has announced details of Louis Theroux’s next, controversial, film.

Louis Theroux: A Place for Paedophiles is due to air at the start of next month. In it, the reporter visits Coalinga Mental Hospital in California, which houses more than 500 of the most disturbed criminals in America – convicted paedophiles.

The BBC’s release reads…

Most have already served lengthy prison sentences, but have been deemed unsafe for release. Instead they have been sent here for an indefinite time. They have only two choices: accept the fact they will never live as free men in society again, or submit to a programme of rehabilitation and therapy run by the hospital’s psychologists.

Louis has gained access to Coalinga to film with patients and therapists, and to consider whether these men – whose history of sexual violence is often long and ingrained – could ever be sufficiently changed by therapy to justify their release.

Spending time with those undergoing treatment, Louis wrestles with whether he can ever allow himself to believe men whose whole history is defined by deception and deceit. At times the honesty of the patients appears disarming and sincere. At others, the language of therapy seems more to mask their true natures than to reveal them.

Among the patients Louis meets is James. After six years of therapy and a physical castration, he appears to have come to understand the enormity of the crimes he committed. He is determined to prove to society that he can be trusted again, and has been recommended for release by the hospital.

Over the course of Louis’ visit, he finds that, out of hundreds of men the hospital has accommodated, only 13 have ever completed the therapy programme. Most refuse even to participate, and many – fiercely deluded about their crimes – talk bitterly about the programme, arguing that the facilities it offers – therapy, tennis, softball, music – are designed less with the intention of rehabilitation than of the long–term incarceration of men who have already served their time.

Louis explores the dark world of Coalinga, and finds an institution committed to helping and treating people but also a place that ultimately offers society a way of confining its most loathed offenders for the rest of their days.


2 Responses to “Theroux returns”

  1. Alex J Thomas on March 24th, 2009 2:07 pm

    I wish he would stop trying to do these ‘serious’ documentaries – they take a trite and simplistic approach to subjects that have been covered in much greater depth elsewhere. Leave this kind of thing to Jon Ronson.

  2. Simon on April 11th, 2009 1:01 pm

    Wasn’t Jon Ronson the one who used to write a weekly column for ‘Time Out’ in which case, he was very funny, but definately not any deeper than Theroux – in fact it was his deliberate daftness that made the ‘TO’ articles so funny. In fact like that Victor Lewis Smith (the Standard’s tv reviewer) his stuff doesn’t translate to tv.