In my previous two blogs I wrote about the investigations surrounding several so-called “Christian” homes for “troubled teens” as reported by Kathryn Joyce. As shocking as these cases are, they are really nothing new, for such abuse extends far back in the history of juvenile justice. The victims – conveniently called “troubled teens” (thereby justifying their incarceration, all “for their own good”) – are like other teenage victims: they are at the mercy of adults who ostensibly love and care for them.
A special web site has been constructed that catalogs dozens of cases of abuse within various facilities, ranging from “boot camps” to the above-referenced “homes for troubled teens.” Actually, there are two web sites. The main web site is called “BOOT CAMP FOR KIDS: Torturing Teens for Fun and Profit.” This web site has posted more than 200 cases of such abuse, including several involving deaths. A secondary web site provides an update with more recent news stories totaling 223 news stories.
It is not possible to report more than a small sample of these stories but these will give readers an idea. Not all of these reports pertain to religiously-based facilities but many are.
“2 arrested in alleged dragging of girl behind van at boot camp.” Houston Chronicle, August 10, 2007. “Charles Eugene Flowers and Stephanie Bassitt of San Antonio-based Love Demonstrated Ministries, a 32-day boot camp, were arrested on aggravated assault charges for the alleged June 12 incident. The two are accused of tying the girl to the van with a rope then dragging her, according to an arrest affidavit filed Wednesday by the Nueces County Sheriff's Department.“
“Handle With Care: The state continues to license a Midstate youth treatment facility where two have died and many others have been abused.” This involves “Chad Youth Enhancement Center” which is described as “a privately owned residential treatment facility nestled in the rolling hills off of a winding, two-lane road just southeast of Clarksville” (Tennessee). A sheriff’s official “said their office received a call that night saying that [14-year-old Linda] Harris had stopped breathing after being physically restrained by a male Chad staffer who fell to the floor with the girl while redirecting her to the time-out room.’
“Abuse, neglect appear widespread in Texas schools for retarded.” Dallas Morning News, July 23, 2007. “Problems exist throughout facilities for Texas' most fragile residents, not just at the Lubbock State School, the subject of a critical U.S. Justice Department report in December.”
“7-year-old suffocated during restraint; death charges filed.” Pioneer Press - TwinCities.com, December 1, 2006. This occurred at the “Northwest Counseling and Guidance Clinic.”
“Boy's pleas for aid denied; Inhaler withheld, restrained teen died.” Atlanta Constitution-Journal, May 7, 2005. A 13-year-old Douglas County boy who died after being restrained at a camp for troubled youngsters asked counselors for his asthma inhaler while he was held down, but no one gave it to him, state records show.
“State agency investigates Bethel facility -- Report details alleged abuse.’ Hattiesburg American, June 11, 2004.
Finally, I believe it is appropriate to close with a special CNN report by Anderson Cooper on the facility that started this series of blogs, the Rebekah Home for Girls. It is very revealing. You can watch the video here.
In conclusion, it seems to me that the abuse that goes on inside these “homes” represent the most recent in a long line of abuses that began with the houses of refuge in the early 19th century. What connects all of these boils down to this: in each instance (whether we are talking about the houses of refuge, training schools, reform schools or “Christian homes for troubled teens”) we have adults having complete power and control over children who engage in punishment under the guise of “treatment” and all done “for their own good.” The result in far too many instances is gross abuse that often leads to death. As the old saying goes, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Yet despite the multitude of scandals and exposes over the past two centuries, little has changed. Kenneth Arrow once used the term “path dependence.” By that he meant that once you created a system and started going down a certain path, and once an infrastructure was created, it becomes almost impossible for people to deviate from the path. People get used to certain methods and they become comfortable with it and have too much to lose if the methods were ever abandoned. There may be minor changes along the way, people may come and go, but the overall system remains intact.