This testimony was found on Reddit. All rights goes to the original author known as evenlesssleep.
Here is a quick summary off the top of my head, of what I believe are the worst things I experienced at Ironwood RTC (also affectionately known as "Ironhood" by a select few residents). I have tried posting something like this to the subreddit before, however I wasn't happy with the way I formatted the information. This post is now here to stay. I can guarantee that any information I have regarding Ironwood is more transparent than the information Ironwood's secretaries are willing to release, or even speak on. So please, feel free to ask if you have any questions.
If you are reading this because you are considering placing your child at Ironwood due to concerns about your child's mental well-being, please be aware that Ironwood is not licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2006, Ironwood (IW) was founded with help by former employees from Turn-about Ranch (Wayne Stinson and Teresa Shinedling). I was a relatively new resident there, arriving in Winter of 2007 and "graduating" from the highest level of the program in 2008. I was escorted to this program from my home in FL, three weeks after I turned sixteen years old for the reason being that I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. I spent eight months in this program.
I was required to write in a journal, which was explained to me as "a private resource that nobody will read" --Bonnie Rector. We were expected to write in these journals every night. Not writing your journal page for the night would result in a punishment. As a collective, our journals were systematically read by staff, who then used the contents of our journals against us during one of what we referred to as "intimidation sessions".
CONCERNING FREE SPEECH
My rights to communication were revoked for days at a time, under their rules of the "Code of Silence" (COS). I was not allowed to talk, acknowledge, laugh, make eye contact, write notes, or use sign language to communicate with other residents of the program, for things as simple as asking what their favorite musical group was. I simply cannot begin to count the amount of times I was put on COS. I recall one time I was put on COS for a day or two by Brian York, because I dared to utter the words "Jesus Christ" in a conversation that was within earshot of him. There was also another time where I asked a new resident what kind of music he had liked, while we did dishes, and Lisa Wing gave me a COS for the rest of the day.
CONCERNING MAIL CENSORSHIP
My outgoing mail was censored. We were forced to write "e-letters" home every Wednesday. These were written on A4 printing paper, which were never placed in envelopes, but instead handed straight to a designated staff member, who then scanned these documents using a computer and sent the resulting electronic file to my parents' e-mail. We were instructed that the e-letters had to be of a positive nature, regardless of you were actually feeling that day, otherwise we were to be punished. I recall a point in which I was sitting in a corner, with tears of sadness falling from my eyes, re-writing my e-letter home because the one I had originally written to my parents wasn't "satisfactory enough" per Erin Wilbur and Gordon Thayer's expectations.
I had a peer of mine confide in me that they were told by staff members they were "writing too many letters home".
Another peer of mine actually had one of his sealed envelope letters opened by a staff member named D'arcy, who read it over and told him that he didn't write enough in the letter to his parents, despite the fact that he was going on his "home visit" to see his parents the very next day. He was at the highest level in the program when this happened. Despicable.
My very first day at IW, I was forced to write a letter home to my parents while on "Impact". Impact was where you went if you didn't subscribe to the program in full. It was a 4x4 foot circle of rocks in the woods, that you were not allowed to leave. You are given a fire to keep warm. You are not allowed to let the fire go out, even if the wood is burning wet, and the wind is blowing smoke in your face for hours. If you left the circle, your time in the circle started over. You were not allowed to communicate with other residents (COS) while on Impact. You were not allowed to sleep or lay down while on Impact. Its purpose was to allow a person reflect on why they were in that situation, in addition to detoxifying new residents. Anyway, I must have written a four page letter while in that circle. When I was finished, a staff member named Greg Cooley read my letter and gave me an extra day in isolation because the contents of my letter were negative. My first four days at this program were spent in isolation.
I was unreasonably punished for my actions.
I was sent to "Impact" again for 3 days, after asking Aimee LeClerc if I could go outside to watch the rest of the boy's group play basketball. This was a day or two prior to Thanksgiving, marking my second week at Ironwood. This means I had literally spent 50% of my first two weeks in this program in their freeze your ass version of solitary.
A couple of months later, I had belched a single time during lunch, and was given twelve demerits for doing so (they were trying to also make laughing at farts a punishable offense, I kid you not.). This translated to me being expected to perform twelve additional hours of labor, in addition to a demerit I had already "earned". I was forced to work a total of thirteen hours on our "free" day, Sunday.
At one point, I had attempted to file a complaint to staff that certain residents were physically assaulting me when staff was not on the floor. I was punished to "Work Impact", along with the entire boy's group, to fix ruts in the road at the main entrance in order to "protect my identity". I was forced to work with the perpetrators, and they were able to easily deduce that I was the reason why they were being punished.
CONCERNING EMOTIONAL NEGLECT AND APPROPRIATE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
I witnessed a young man in a wheelchair harm himself by dumping his body into a fire pit. He was within 30 yards of me, as we were both on "Impact", otherwise known as isolation. I can still feel the cold and sharp sting of adrenaline I felt at that moment. I can still hear the thumping of his body after he fell. I still hear the crackling of his orange jumpsuit as he writhed in the fire. I was unable to go anywhere while this happened. I was forced to stay in that stone circle, to watch and to listen. I asked to speak to a licensed therapist within the hour after I had witnessed that, and I was denied. It wasn't because these events unfolded at an unreasonable hour either--it was broad daylight.
That was not an isolated incident either. There were plenty of other times where I had asked for access to a licensed therapist while in isolation while under incredible emotional distress, I had been refused services.
Why was I refused adequate access to mental health services? This event haunts me to this day.
CONCERNING PROPER CARE OF FOOD PREPARATION AND CONSUMPTION
Food was used as a punishment. We were forced to consume bulgur wheat in it's raw and uncut form, which made the entire boy's lodge ill. I was forced to eat avocado slices that had been left to ferment on a table for three hours while we were in school session, which led to my becoming painfully ill as my insides rejected it. We were forced to consume highly unpalatable food that staff were unwilling to even taste. I wonder if there are any of my peers out there that still remember "Ashtray Chili", and "Formaldehyde Noodles".
CONCERNING MEDICAL NECESSITIES
My mother and father made clear to me that they paid money for IW to have my teeth examined. At not one point during my stay there, was I brought to a dental clinic to see this procedure through.
What happened? Where is that money now?
In the lower levels of this program, only an army blanket and sleeping bag were all we were given to sleep with (we slept on particle board with no pillows or mattresses). We were told that if we were caught using the army blanket given to us as a pillow, we would be punished. I slept in this fashion for over three months before I "earned" the right to use a pillow.
CONCERNING VERBAL ABUSE
I was verbally abused by staff members. I quote,
"You look like the type of person that abuses animals." --Aimee Leclerc "You're an asshole." --Erin Wilbur
We were expected to be columnists for "The Treatment Times", a summary of our activities at IW. I was under the impression that this information we had authored was sent to our parents back at home through the same means as our "e-letters". I was shocked to find out that they were using my writings, including images of me, without permission-- as a propaganda tool for themselves on the IW website. It took over a month, and multiple phone calls in order for them to comply with my demand that they were not allowed to use my image, nor my written works without my exclusive permissions.
CONCERNING CODE VIOLATIONS
There was a ladder inside of the main lodge of the level 1's and 2's, that was built out of scrapped tree trunks the level 1's and 2's had found in the woods surrounding Ironwood. This ladder was used for access to a loft which held supplies. When code inspection day came, I was instructed along with another resident to carry that very ladder out of the lodge, and to bury it under foliage behind the level 1's and 2's facility. This same ladder was shortly brought back into use inside the lodge after the inspection officials had left.
Why couldn't IW afford to buy/install a ladder that was up to code? Shameful.
I wish I was making this up, however everything that I have written here is true, and is just the tip of the iceberg. I will try to update this as much as I humanly can, as my memories are innumerable. Anyone with a logical explanation for how any of this is an effective treatment for major depressive disorder, I urge you to please leave an answer, as I have not found one yet. I, like many of you out there, fear that I now suffer from post-traumatic stress as a result of being sent to this type of facility. I fear that I will never be granted closure regarding this experience, due to the moral apathy and inaction of Marion and Rod Rodrigue, the original founders. Cheers.