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It sounds like the program has changed since I was there.
Similar thing happened to me when I was 17.
During high school, I was kind of a punk...or rather....kind of an obnoxious little brat, much like most 17 year olds of my generation. After a particularly loud argument with my father, we got into a fist fight which caused my mom to call the police.
When they arrived, My father's face was a mostly bruised and bloodied, where as I didn't have a scratch on me (my father was really only trying to hold me down while I thrashed at him). As the cops were beginning to cart me away I made just about the dumbest decision of my life. I turned to glare at my father and said "I'll kill you."
Needless to say, 30 minutes later, I was being escorted by 3 officers into the juvenile ward of a mental hospital. I spent a week imprisoned there with all sorts of drug addicted/bipolar/schizophrenic kids, not once hearing from my parents. During the course of my stay, I was stabbed with a dirty syringe, peed on, bitten, had feces thrown at me, and worst of all, woke up to my "roommate" lying dead in his bed, bedsheets tied around his neck. Now you must realize....I was a pretty well adjusted teenager.
I had nice friends, played music and sports, and did pretty well in school. I had never even been in the same room as any kind of drug. At worst, I was a brat with an additude problem and slight video game addiction. So going through all this scared me absolutely shit-less.
Finally my parents came to visit me, though rather than riding to my rescue like I thought they would, they only came to explain that they were sending me off to "somewhere that could help me". I was handed off the the two largest men I've ever seen, handcuffed and shoved into a car, and driven 18 hours to Middleoffuckingnowhere, Utah (aka Escalante, Utah).
I arrived at a place called Turnabout Ranch. From what I could see, it was basically a very small cabin, a barn, and a couple cows. I was greeted by a pair of haggard old rednecks, 1 man 1 woman. I was told not to speak a word to anyone except them, and only when directly spoken to. They brought me to a lean-to in front of the cabin, and a circle made from rocks, no bigger than 2 feet in diameter. I was told not to leave the circle, unless it was raining in which case i could go under the lean-to. I spent 3 days there, only leaving to go to the bathroom and sleep on the wood floor of the cabin.
After those three days, I was allowed to move "freely" around the ranch and talk to others. It took me about 2 days to attempt my first escape, 3 days for my first suicide attempt, and 1 week to finally get shipped off to another program for being to "unstable".
I was then shipped to Loa, Utah, and another program that I can't recall the name of. I was given my first meal since I arrived in utah that didnt consist of trail mix or ramen. I believe it was rice and beans. I spent a night in a small empty warehouse, sleeping on the floor with a few other kids, surrounded by adults armed with tazers.
In the morning, I was given a sleeping bag, a bedroll, a water bottle, a small sack of rations, placed in a car, and driven to what can only be described as the middle of the Mojave Desert. I was again greeted with more large men with tazers. There were 5 other kids in my "group", all of whom were completely amazing and supportive of each other, unlike our staff who mostly only spoke the threaten us in some way.
We hiked no less than 10 miles a day to resupply points where we could re-fill our clean water and rations. I spent 6 months in that desert, hiking day in and day out, until my 18th birthday when I was required by law to be released. During my time there, I wore only 2 separate changes of clothes, never brushed my teeth, took 5 or 6 "showers" via a bucket with holes in the bottom, was bitten by 2 snakes (and countless bugs), and broke my right ankle twice (i was still required to hike).
When I returned to my hometown, I explained to my parents all that had happened, and when I was done I didn't speak to them for over a year. It was only through a lot of counselling and a very large "We're sorry" monetary gift that I decided to let them back into my life.
Today, we're pretty close. I understand why they sent me away, and they regret not researching these programs more. There are still times where old feeling will emerge and I'll refuse to speak to them for a few days, but it's mostly all passed.
TL;DR My parents sent me to a mental hospital, and 2 separate and abusive "rehab programs" for 6 months.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Monday, December 10, 2012
On January 4, 1990, I boarded a plane in New Orleans for the Dominican Republic. I was headed to Escuela Caribe, an evangelical Christian reform school (also the setting of Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres). The school had been referred to my parents by the influential religious organization, Focus on the Family.
My life would never be the same.
I thought I was going to a Christian boarding school. Instead I entered a two year long nightmare where I lost all basic human rights. I quickly learned to ask permission from my “housefather” to stand, to sit, to use the bathroom, and to enter each and every room. If I didn’t I was punished with hours of forced exercise, sometimes holding stress positions (push-up position, or holding my arms out to the side weighted with books) for long periods of time. Staff and fellow students watched my every gesture, keeping track of my “progress” on a daily point sheet.
One of these days, staff said, I would move up the school’s level system, confronting those with lower rank than me. I promised myself I would never do that.
Awful things happened. Kids being beaten, molested, put into solitary confinement. Being manipulated in God’s name intensified the pressure. When the first Gulf War began, we were told it was “the beginning of the end of the world.” Girls who had undergone abortions were denounced as “baby-killers.” One housefather refused to allow my friend to see a counselor on the anniversary of her dad’s death because she refused to recognize Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
All letters to and from home were censored. All phone calls were supervised and taped. There was no way to tell anyone on the outside about the abuse.
Over time, I changed. I became a high-ranker, confronting lower ranking students in ways I had previously vowed never to engage. I sucked up to staff members by debating Scripture.
Eventually I graduated and made my escape. I was so spun out from the trauma that I couldn’t even write, but gradually, I achieved stability. Lots of my friends weren’t so lucky.
Unreformed seeks to open the eyes of America to the consequences of imprisoning our youth in residential treatment facilities, putting a human face to the statistics, a cultural context to the numbers and psychological insight into the practice, propelled by the memories of what happened to my friends and myself.
Some died. Most survived. We all changed.
This is our story.
The facility seems to have been closed early 2012 properly due to the negative attention of the public.