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Tough Love
December 28, 2006 12:50 PM   Subscribe


 
We sure hate us our kids, huh?

(When I'm dictator, running a "boot camp" for teens is going one of those "against the wall" occupations.)
posted by maxwelton at 12:59 PM on December 28, 2006


I cannot read that all the way through because it is giving me the killing rage.

Will try again later.

:-(
posted by fleetmouse at 1:11 PM on December 28, 2006


Right now, children sent to private tough love programs have fewer rights than convicted prisoners. A parent can send a child to a private program where he can be held incommunicado until he turns 18, without any medical diagnosis or rationale for the treatment and without any oversight or means of appeal.
posted by Afreemind2007 at 1:13 PM on December 28, 2006


Here's the ultimate point:

There is NO DIFFERENCE in the recidivism rate in kids that go to these camps and those that spend time in Juvie.

It MIGHT possibly be justifiable if it actually made a difference. But it doesn't. It is very literally torturing teens for absolutely no good reason at all.

There is just no reason these things should be legal.
posted by InnocentBystander at 1:15 PM on December 28, 2006


Discipline and Punish
posted by papakwanz at 1:17 PM on December 28, 2006


video of martin lee anderson being, well, killed.
posted by phaedon at 1:18 PM on December 28, 2006


I remember back when I was a teenager, places like these and 'rehab' and the like were always held over me and my friends head by guidance counselors, principals parents and the like. Whether it would have done any of us any good is open to debate, but reading this, I'm kind of glad, I never wound up there.
posted by jonmc at 1:19 PM on December 28, 2006


Since when has it become acceptable for the state to beat a child to death?

I can't even believe that I have to ask that question.
posted by clevershark at 1:20 PM on December 28, 2006


These things exist because people with authoritarian tenancies get off on them, and enjoy dominating people.

Also, whats with all the love that Jeb Bush seems to get? Everything I ever hear about him, everything makes him seem like a creepy, hyperauthoritarian psycho.
posted by delmoi at 1:21 PM on December 28, 2006


I can't help but to think it's a matter of 10 or 20 years before White House or Congress gets the notion to send "wild teens" to shape up and ship out to America's front lines, or at least hot areas where reservists are doing duty. You know it would be a piece of cake for politicians to sell it under patriotism, honor, and restitution.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:21 PM on December 28, 2006


This is obviously bad, but it would horrify you to learn how many parents think beating their kids especially in public is the only way to raise them. Whenever the topic comes up on TV, radio, or some message board, some dimwit always chimes in with how they aren't afraid to hit their kids when they act up in restaurants, stores, etc.

They never seem to realize that if their kids repeatedly act up despite the beatings, maybe the beatings aren't really helping.

I am also noticing that private preschools and elementary schools are asking parents to indicate how they discipline their children at home. I have some anecdotal information that the schools use this to deny admission to children of parents who physically punish their kids, because those kids tend to be the ones who are the most disruptive and prone to bullying in the class.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:23 PM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Since when has it become acceptable for the state to beat a child to death?

I can't even believe that I have to ask that question.
posted by clevershark at 4:20 PM EST on December 28


A better question: since when has it become unacceptable to beat the state to death?
posted by Pastabagel at 1:23 PM on December 28, 2006


Fucked up.
posted by cortex at 1:24 PM on December 28, 2006


Anyone else reminded of the Sunlight home from the Talisman?
posted by SBMike at 1:24 PM on December 28, 2006


What gets me is that it's a huge multi-million dollar industry propped up by false assumptions (that teen crime is worse now than it ever was, that the treatments work).

Go back to 1785 and see how orderly society was back then. Go back to 1885 and see how orderly it was. It wasn't. There was far more crime, random violence, child prostitution, and rebellion than there ever has been in this century. And the vast majority of the criminals were teens or young adults. You couldn't travel from New York to Philadelphia or from London to York by land without becoming a target of crime, unless you travelled as a member of a large group.

I think a lot of this shit comes out of the very rose-coloured glasses people look at the past through. Things are better now than they ever have been. For one thing, most crimes, even sex crimes, are more likely to be reported. (100 years ago, a rape victim was held by all of society to be 100% at fault; nowadays only certain groups *cough*copsandafewcollegeguys*cough* hold that to be true.)
posted by watsondog at 1:28 PM on December 28, 2006


This book contains a rather in-depth look at these kinds of camps, whether they bill themselves as bootcamps, survival camps, theraputic camps, etc. Truely eye-opening stuff.
posted by dr_dank at 1:28 PM on December 28, 2006


This reminds me of that kid who got tased at UCLA. Whatever happened there?
posted by delmoi at 1:30 PM on December 28, 2006


watsondog writes "You couldn't travel from New York to Philadelphia or from London to York by land without becoming a target of crime, unless you travelled as a member of a large group."

You could travel from London to New York by land back then? I assume you mean by walking across the sea ice.
posted by mullingitover at 1:32 PM on December 28, 2006


mullingitover, you silly
posted by nj_subgenius at 1:34 PM on December 28, 2006


that video is so disturbing, phaedon.
posted by Afreemind2007 at 1:36 PM on December 28, 2006


What's creepy (to me) is that they mention a facility in Samoa that was shut down. Strangely, I had visited that facility in 2000 with my mother (I was out of college, so it wasn't a "shape up or you go here") and I still have photos of us with the large Samoan matron and a bunch of the boys. Everyone in the photo seems happy enough, though I now wonder what happened leading up to the picture being taken.

And at the time, I don't think either of us had any idea of what the operations of the place actually entailed (I had my suspicions though they had been allayed).
posted by mjbraun at 1:38 PM on December 28, 2006


mullingitover, Only marginally true, chances of survival over the Pack Ice is slim at best, heck the Polar bears alone would get you...

posted by Elim at 1:38 PM on December 28, 2006


York
posted by ND¢ at 1:40 PM on December 28, 2006


NDc, HUH?!?!?
posted by Elim at 1:42 PM on December 28, 2006


as for the ucla case, the school has officially handed the case over to an independent investigator, a lawsuit appears may have been filed on behalf of the tasered student, but the lawyer has since quit^, and it has also come to light that the UCPD officer involved shot a homeless man in campus study hall three years ago, and has "been involved in several controversial incidents on campus.

posted by phaedon at 1:42 PM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm curious why deaths like the one highlighted in the beginning of the article don't result in homicide charges of some kind.

It's obvious that a real military boot camp has an incentive to not only grind their recruits down but keep them healthy and functional -- soldiers are an investment. I'm not sure what incentives teen camps have other than the threat of legal retribution, and I don't see why it shouldn't be swift and thorough when their actions result in a death.

That said, I'm acquainted with some people who've worked in wilderness programs, and it's apparent to me they're not all operated on the principle of the jack-boot, and some seem to produce changes.
posted by weston at 1:43 PM on December 28, 2006


Harry Potter and the Spanking and Motivating

Why are people so enamored with boot camp? Nearly all the motivational methodology is social not physical. D.I.’s stopped hitting people not (only) because it offends poor old Aunt Biddy, but that other forms of conditioning are superior. Otherwise they’d still be beating on people. And why ignore the “building up” part of that? The teamwork and reliance as well as the self-respect that comes in knowing others can count on you.
...oh, yeah, money, cronyism, bigotry, right.
And anyone who’s raised a kid or trained kids to something useful knows that hurting them is ridiculously counterproductive. Tough love my ass. Without any clear and defined goals in training and as a result of training it’s organized sadism. “Off drugs” doesn’t cut it as a goal. There’s no need to break someone down and build them up. That’s an outmoded training method. You set goals that they agree to and teach them how to achieve or they break themselves down (and lose social standing/benefits). When they break themselves down you set lesser goals, like I won’t wet myself before PT. Tougher to get the group on board to help the sad sacks, but there are social benefits for those who do and some kids didn’t grow up with any role models at all and need a lot of help. Even basic hygene. Beating on them is not a short cut to achieve anything useful (which is why, much as I’d love to, I do not seek out and beat on the type of shitheads in the article).

“matter of 10 or 20 years before White House or Congress gets the notion to send "wild teens" to shape up and ship out to America's front lines”

Jesus that would suck. We’d be like the Russians drinking the damn brake fluid in their tanks.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:45 PM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Administrators who reviewed 180 “use of force” reports found inappropriate actions in only eight cases, even though most people would think that beating someone for “breathing heavily” is not acceptable.

Well, yes, as a general rule, I'm going to have to say beating someone for breathing heavily is unacceptable.

God.

What's even worse is that tv shows like Maury (and yes, I am admitting to having watched it by writing this) glorify these camps and the people who run them... which lead to dumb Yahoo Answers threads like this one. Yes, these are the people raising the next generation. (Sigh).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:51 PM on December 28, 2006


"May I ask this? Under what circumstances is it moral for a group to do that which is not moral for a member of that group to do alone?" "Uh...that’s a trick question." "It is the key question, dear Wyoming. A radical question that strikes to the root of the whole dilemma of government. Anyone who answers honestly and abides by all consequences know where he stands–and what he will die for."

HEINLEIN, ROBERT, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
posted by nyxxxx at 1:53 PM on December 28, 2006


It's hard to imagine how people come to agree to send their kids off to this. I'm not judging as much as wondering what we can learn about the coercion that's put upon the parents. And there was a documentary about WWASP from a few years ago that was frightening in its cruel cultishness. As a parent, how could you come to terms with that? I just don't know myself.
posted by nj_subgenius at 1:55 PM on December 28, 2006


I don't think we should ever use the phrase tough love unless it is in quotes. To do otherwise implies that there may actually be such a thing. What these people call "tough love" is sadism, brainwashing, psycho-sexual torture, and complete disregard for the basic humanity of children. But that probably doesn't read as well on a brochure.
posted by papakwanz at 2:12 PM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


I imagine positive reinforcement would work better than this. And I doubt it would kill anyone.
posted by effwerd at 2:20 PM on December 28, 2006


smedleyman: And anyone who’s raised a kid or trained kids to something useful knows that hurting them is ridiculously counterproductive.

I'm reminded of something I once heard attributed to an old Lakota man late in the 19th century. He'd come to the white school to check on his grandson, and discovered they were beating the boy for speaking Lakota. He sought out the headmaster, and said to him (from my memory): "How do you expect to teach a boy to be a man by beating him? All you can teach him that way is how to be afraid."

Of course, that was probably the point of beating him.

I also think about these two ex-marines a buddy and I ran into once while out drinking. One (zero bodyfat, but seriously laid back) seemed to have adjusted really well; the other one, according to his friend, "woke up every morning still in the corps." His whole identity was as a marine. Again, as his buddy put it: "The Corps tears you down to build you up. Some people get torn down more than others."

So I think at least part of the reason for the popularity of these "solutions" is that institutionally, "we" want people who need to be told what to do. We want people who have been torn down. Building back up is optional.
posted by lodurr at 2:43 PM on December 28, 2006


The people who send their kids to these camps are the same ones who are proud that they spank their children, who joke about it, who say "My dad kicked my ass when I was a kid and I derserved it and it made me behave!" White trash, mostly, and all of of them small-minded authoritarians, whose personal failures, helplessness, and mediocrity are forgotten only when they can physically overpower or intimidate children.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:54 PM on December 28, 2006 [3 favorites]


All the while, a nurse in a white uniform stood by, looking bored. At one point she examined the boy with a stethoscope, then allowed the beating to continue until he was unconscious.

I had to stop reading after this line. Like fleetmouse, I was moving into the killing rage area of anger.

I mean WTF? A nurse is allowing a child to be harmed in her presence? Actually monitoring the level of damage and deciding that the kid can take a bit more?

Fuck. That.

I suppose the only bright light here is that the kids who graduate these boot camps will be in a perfect mindset and fully trained to take over the responsibilities in the secret prisons we keep around the world. I mean, at least they will have jobs waiting for them when they get out.
posted by quin at 3:04 PM on December 28, 2006


Optimus Chyme writes " The people who send their kids to these camps are the same ones who are proud that they spank their children, who joke about it, who say 'My dad kicked my ass when I was a kid and I derserved it and it made me behave!' White trash, mostly, and all of of them small-minded authoritarians, whose personal failures, helplessness, and mediocrity are forgotten only when they can physically overpower or intimidate children."

I'm not sure this is entirely true. A lot of these people are upper middle class (the camps, especially the foreign ones, are expensive), and looking desperately for a solution to behavioral problems that they've been sincerely unable to cope with. I think they're often mislead as to the nature of the camps: they expect a "strict" environment, but without abuse.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:10 PM on December 28, 2006


So the guys that beat that kid to death are in prison for murder, right?

No criminal charges have been filed so far...

Um, what?
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:12 PM on December 28, 2006


lodurr - yeah, I completely agree. Shame of it all is what you really want for your kid is a strong willed individual with self-respect and good habits who sets positive goals. Marines, well...we all know the goals there. I’d add to your assessment that because they’re similar in form and - occasionally - method, it’s easy to conflate the two for gullible, lazy or desparate parents. I’d say you’ve hit on the a big part of the problem with the prison system as well. It’s a factory for putting spiritual holes in people.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:17 PM on December 28, 2006


Yes. What America needs are more followers. Let us create as many ways to produce mush-brained followers as possible. Especially the psychotic damaged kind.
posted by tkchrist at 3:25 PM on December 28, 2006


I think , given the description of the brutality the guy was submitted to, that the "instructors" are just idiots picked up on the street and told to imitate Full Metal Jacket drill seargent.

Except they don't know how and why drilling MAY work, they only take the brutality aspect which are NOT of all drill seargent, but are more commonly found in platoons with unclear, not present ,careless leadership.

I spent one year as a conscript soldier and I received a quite poor traning, but conscripts are the bottom of the military barell. I have completely drilled in my head that you should never point a gun, loaded or not, toward anybody living ; we were not beaten, not mistreaded, not severely punished, but the fear of god was instilled in us about mishandling a weapon, but unlike violent conditioning, both positive and moderate negative conditioning were used to instruct me.

As for the leadership, it was VERY POOR...the officiers were a pity, a model of laziness and carelessness, a bunch of yelling idiots that didn't really care and it showed.

Clearly violence erupted when initiations, put down rituals, and other extremist conformance and identification methods were employed by some royal asshole or maybe by some officier in a bid to control the soldier, what they lacked in leadership they attempted to instill with fear and doubt.

These kids sent to these camps probably need psychological counseling, not an half assed boot camp ; I remember a couple of my fellow soldiers, one of them had a sex fixation and was contantly farting in front of officiers in a form of masochist defiance....another was every night hitting his head against the cabinets...laste one week, sent to hospital.

Not even conscript soldiers are treated like those kids. On top of this, they probably receive a lot of religious indoctrination and I wouldn't be surprised to find out they are more likely to become misantrophist or mysoginists.
posted by elpapacito at 3:28 PM on December 28, 2006


I wonder what the statistics are for "wilderness" camps, where instead of kicking kids' asses, troubled teens are sent out to the forest somewhere in Canada to learn how to survive and camp, etc.
posted by Mach3avelli at 3:32 PM on December 28, 2006


You could travel from London to New York by land back then? I assume you mean by walking across the sea ice.

NDc, HUH?!?!?

York and New York are different places, thus the "new" in front of the second. And you can walk from York to London.

That said, I did misread it at first as well.

I'm curious why deaths like the one highlighted in the beginning of the article don't result in homicide charges of some kind.

Because the government of Florida is a sick joke. Jeb bush wanted to prosecute Micheal Shiavo for murdering his wife, yet his state murders children by the score. Like I said i don't follow politics too much, but everything I hear about Jeb creeps me right the fuck out. He's worse then his brother, and smarter.
posted by delmoi at 3:47 PM on December 28, 2006


sorry, I mean I don't follow Florida politics much. Obviously I follow national politics more closely then is healthy.
posted by delmoi at 3:48 PM on December 28, 2006


I mean WTF? A nurse is allowing a child to be harmed in her presence?

Yeah, I thought about that too. Police and corrections officers can at least be expected to occasionally have violent confrontations as part of their job (although this and similar incidents are in no way justified), but a nurse should be there to help the patient. The medical community has come down soundly against any kind of medical participation in torture; this nurse is not worthy of the title. I would say the same about a physician involved in a similar situation.
posted by TedW at 3:48 PM on December 28, 2006


America's obsession with feel-good, macho "solutions" for everything will be its downfall.
posted by PsychoKick at 3:55 PM on December 28, 2006


On the whole it's probably a good thing. It's probably way cheaper to toss these kids into camps then to keep putting them through the courts again and again and again. A certain class of people (young, urban-ish, poor, badly educated, criminally inclined) will need to get used to living in camps. Any actual solution to these kids would involve a painful restructuring of the whole system which is in nobody's interest. Camps are the optimal solution to such marginal populations since they simultaneously contain the problem while reinforcing the power of the system. When the state is literally beating teens to death that sends a message to everybody. As for shutting down the camps it's a point-of-no-return thing. Shutting them down now would raise lots of painful questions and spur lots of lawsuits. Again, not in anybody's interest.
posted by nixerman at 3:58 PM on December 28, 2006


I wondered about that as well Mach3avelli, and I was kinda sad to see their inclusion in the article. I would think that, properly run, one of those camps would work very well. Instead of the instructor being the bad guy, he's the one who is showing you how to stay alive. It's the environment that's out to get you.

And you have to rely on those around you; rather than teaching these kids to retreat into their minds to avoid the pain, something that required teamwork for survival would build a societally useful sense of camaraderie. And the isolation would help prevent any kind of recidivism into drugs or crime. It simply wouldn't be an option.

And it might teach one most important skills, self worth by way of self reliance. That the kid is capable of doing something difficult with the skills they have learned. Seems like a good lesson.

But I've never been to one, so maybe they don't work. It seems like it would have a better chance of success than kicking the hell out of people though.
posted by quin at 4:01 PM on December 28, 2006


dr_dank: "This book contains a rather in-depth look at these kinds of camps, whether they bill themselves as bootcamps, survival camps, theraputic camps, etc. Truely eye-opening stuff."

Paging the author of both the book and the article, Metafilter member maias.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:13 PM on December 28, 2006


These camps are vile and disgusting, and every single person involved with them should be arrested, starting with the parents who send their kids there.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:50 PM on December 28, 2006




Wow, great to know she's a member.

And as a bit of an aside, Foucault would be laughing his prophetic ass off looking at America today. Ostensibly the most powerful military and economic powerhouse in the world, but getting less and less free every day. Just turn on MSNBC after 9 pm, any night -- wall-to-wall documentaries on life inside maximum security prisons. People can't get enough of this stuff.

We are truly becoming a nation of boot-lickers. The power of the state is worshipped not as a means to anything, but as an idol in and of itself. Those who question said power "hate America and our freedoms."

PsychoKick writes America's obsession with feel-good, macho "solutions" for everything will be its downfall.

Exactly.
posted by bardic at 4:58 PM on December 28, 2006


mattoxic : that's a scary, scary, website :(
posted by kaemaril at 5:11 PM on December 28, 2006


Ah, Orwell, you prophetic bastard:
"There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face …for ever."

posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 5:13 PM on December 28, 2006


Count me in the "can't read more: killing rage" camp. I also refuse to seriously contemplate reproducing: what a diseased culture species to bring a kid into. This kind of thing has ramifications and causes far beyond the kids, their parents and the camps, and I don't know of a practical means of insulation from same. Yuck.

Happy New Year, y'all!
posted by everichon at 5:30 PM on December 28, 2006


i have no moral reservations at all about the child-victims of these programs hunting down and killing their oppressors.
posted by bruce at 5:34 PM on December 28, 2006


I found this website:

http://www.freeourkids.com/

while looking up more info on Martin Lee Anderson. It was a paid search result on Google.
posted by paulinsanjuan at 5:39 PM on December 28, 2006


Yeah, every time I read about these things, I'm furious and sick with fantasies of capturing the adults running these things and subjecting them to the very same treatments ... but I'm never surprised. This sort of behavior is rampant, from fraternity hazing to basic training to having medical interns work ridiculous hours. It's even better when they're children, because everyone loves indoctrinating kids with religious nonsense and other hooting, stick-waving traditions.

All of the adults, from the parents to the judges to the CEO to the nurse and the guards, should be taken to some kind of camp where they have their personalities erased. Just pick some random facet of their lives that is important and make sure that they don't get out until it's changed. Reverse their sexual orientation. Train them to gibber with fear whenever they see a blue light. Your basic 1984, House of Stairs kinda stuff.

And I'd work there for free. Hypocritical? Yeah, but so very satisfying to consider.
posted by adipocere at 5:47 PM on December 28, 2006


I'm not sure this is entirely true. A lot of these people are upper middle class (the camps, especially the foreign ones, are expensive), and looking desperately for a solution to behavioral problems that they've been sincerely unable to cope with.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:10 PM PST on December 28


Oh, you don't have to be poor to be white trash. I actually think the opposite is true in many cases: when your only solution to any problem is to get out your wallet and let someone else "deal" with it, well.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:23 PM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


These programs are offering a seductivly simple idea, the "short sharp shock" as it used to be called. Parents at their wits end think believe that this is a solution to often very complex problems young people face.

These camps offer a very low standard of care, the staff generally lack qualifications that should be expected in dealing with "troubled" teens.

I find the idea of making a profit from one's misery quite sickening.
posted by mattoxic at 6:33 PM on December 28, 2006


In the UK, it appears that there is an obscure statute which gives parental authority over an under-18 child. I was placed in an ACF "Reshaping and Training" camp for a month. I still have memories of my time there, which was horrifying, frightening, and traumatising. On the subject of physical punishment, (also involving so-called "beastings" which mainly consisted of being forced to run, beaten, and forced to run again) when I reported the camp after leaving, it appears that the contract my father signed contained a clause involving "certain physical restraints and disciplines."

I'm still not sure why the law allows it, here or in the US. Anyone else passed through a disciplinary centre?
posted by malusmoriendumest at 6:40 PM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


All this tough love kick-the-drugs-out-of-your-comatose-body shit makes me kind of glad my parents still do LSD.
posted by tehloki at 6:43 PM on December 28, 2006


A forum for people discussing the abuses in boot camps and 'wilderness therapy programs' (which are for the most part boot camps in very remote places so the kids cannot escape). More discussions, same forum.

Discussion of the TV series about kids taken to boot camp, Brat Camp.

An article about Hyde Schools, associated with boot camps around the USA. Hyde Schools harvest kids from boot camps. These kinds of so-called 'character schools' are technically mental institutions and need the kids to self commit, without knowing that's what they are doing. The boot camps are used to crush the kids into wanting to be anywhere but in the boot camp, so they say, "Yes, I'd love to go to Hyde."

Website for boot camps etc selling their wares.

From my personal knowledge of kids who went to boot camp and Hyde School, they are expensive, destructive brainwashing institutions that simply don't work, they make things worse.

The human personality is greatly shaped in the first 6 years of life. By age 6, if the child has been abandoned, abused or smothered enough, they develop a destructive personality disorder (or a combination of several disorders, often with addiction thrown in as well), which is a rigid, lifelong, all-pervasive condition. Personality disorders are on a continuum. Boot camps and 'character schools' don't address personality disorders, they simply attempt to bully the child out of their patterns. Doesn't work.

A fair number of the children I met who were forced into Hyde School were basically suffering from depression, responding to their personality disordered or addicted parents, who wanted to scapegoat their kids. Boot camps and boot therapy schools are an unhealthy mix of personality disordered kids and kids suffering depression.

As long as the parents cough up the money to keep their kids in these expensive places (a 2 1/2 month stint in a boot camp can cost about $60,000 and a year in Hyde costs about $25,000+) the addicted or messed up parents are not called on their stuff, only the kids are blamed. Naturally, this hypocrisy isn't wasted on the kids, who learn to put on a front over their 'issues' to just get through until they can leave.

The bottom line is that when it comes to dealing with 'troubled teens', the emotional and social results of bad parenting, the importance of raising kids well in their first years of life is not being looked at, only attempts to punish/brainwash the kids.
posted by nickyskye at 6:53 PM on December 28, 2006


Anyone else passed through a disciplinary centre?

Yeah, I was sentenced to twenty hours at an attendance centre when I was fifteen or so, and three months detention centre when I was seventeen.

Attendance centre meant giving up two hours or so every Saturday afternoon to scrub floors and do PE at the local police training facility.

Detention centre was the proverbial 'short, sharp, shock.' A much more rigorous regime than the borstals as there was no smoking and you were subjected to military discipline. Movement around the place was 'at the double', and you did circuit training three times a week. You couldn't get out unless you were able to complete the circuit regime.

The latter was unquestionably the unhappiest period of my life. A couple of things struck me:

a.) the extremely high incidence of illiterate children, most of whom had come direct from the social care system. Perhaps half of the boys in there couldn't read or write, despite having grown up in local authority care homes.

These kids were part of a parallel, underground world. They all knew each other, and they all fully expected to go from approved school to detention centre to borstal to prison. They'd known nothing other than institutional homes, and they certainly weren't equipped to cope on their own.

b.) the high level of children with serious mental illness, who would appear at the centre, behave in an inappropriate manner, be met with phenomenal force in an attempt to curtail it, but as that doesn't actually cure mental illness, it would have no impact. They'd just keep on until they were shipped out. In the two months I was there, maybe three or four children like this passed through.

The thing that I find interesting about these places in the US is that the vast majority of kids aren't sent there by the state as a punishment for a crime. They're sent there by their own parents in an attempt to control their behaviour. And they aren't cheap either. IIRC, the average price is somewhere between $2 and $4,000 a month, so it's either the kids of the rich who are being sent, or parents are pissing away the kids college fund -- usually for something completely innoccuous like smoking pot. (Which was why I got my sentences as well.)

I know that Maia was a little despondent about the lack of attention that the book got in the media. It's the first book on the subject, and it's an extremely thorough exposure of a national scandal. The reviews that the book did get were extremely good, but the mainstream media largely ignored it. She has similar problems selling stories on the issue, but plugs away at it regardless, because it's an important issue, and if she doesn't do it, then who will?

But you've got to wonder what it says about US society that your media is happy to ignore this systematic brutality and abuse of your children, while finding yet more space to show yet more pictures of Paris Hilton with her growler hanging out.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:03 PM on December 28, 2006 [2 favorites]



Wow, a mefi link to both my article and book-- i'm honored!

btw, i should update and say that charges have been filed in the Martin Lee Anderson case against the guards and the nurse but not against the higher-ups who devised the orders that they followed. that article was last edited before that happened. [hope a self link is ok there!]

The scary thing about the nurse is that she probably believed she was doing the right thing-- when you believe that hurting people helps them, you think that *stopping* the beating will damage them by "letting them get away with faking."

It's an incredibly sick and corrosive ideology and profoundly depressing that this society believes that this is still an acceptable thing to do to kids.

I talked to a kid recently who'd just gotten out of one of these places who was at first so bewildered and socially clueless that when asked whether her friend "looked fat in this" she said "yes" because she'd been taught that "being honest" was being a good friend!!!!! obviously, it took her months to get re-adjusted to society and her social life still suffers. the number of kids with PTSD afterwards is also horrific.

and what i will never understand is that the same parents who reminisce about their own high school hijinks don't get that denying a child a first kiss, a first date, time to hang out with friends, exposure to the popular music and TV of their peers and everything else that goes with a normal adolescence would be harmful even without all the other hideous stuff these programs impose. a year (and most kids wind up away for 3 or so) is a huge period of time in adolescence.

and the huge irony is that these kids do far less drugs, drinking, have fewer pregnancies and sexual partners than their parents did *before* they get sent away for smoking a joint or angering their new stepparent!!!!!
posted by Maias at 8:04 PM on December 28, 2006 [5 favorites]


Something I don't understand: if you abuse your children, they will be taken away by child services for their protection.

But if you have enough money to pay someone else to abuse your children, child services just ignores this?

Why aren't all these under-18s being removed from their parents' care on the grounds of abuse?
posted by jb at 8:21 PM on December 28, 2006



thanks peter!

jb, the reason child services tend to ignore these abuses is because these programs slip between the regulatory nets by tellling parents that they are "emotional growth" programs that help with psychiatric diagnoses and drug issues-- and telling regulatory authorities that they are schools, not mental institutions or drug treatment.

also, when they are under the aegis of regulators, they manage to portray themselves as the only ones tough enough to work with these hideous kids and so the regulators give them chance after chance after chance to remedy the "excesses"-- not realizing that the excesses are the basis of the program.

what would make a huge difference would be requiring an independent evaluation of the child and the family before a parent could send a kid away-- and a requirement that the kid have access 24/7 to an abuse reporting hotline that would rapidly investigate all complaints. in addition, regs that oppose cruel and degrading and humiliating tactics (even if they are called "therapy") and the psychiatric notion of the "least restrictive setting" and re-assessing the child every few months for the ongoing need for a restrictive setting would make a difference as well.

the sad thing is that a huge proportion of these kids have no diagnosable drug or psychiatric problem at all-- they are normal teens with scared or crazy parents. and the diagnosable ones, the research shows, can be far more effectively treated at home without the risks of these places.

we do know things that help-- but these things aren't marketed because they aren't that profitable or sexy and they are devised by academics, not entrepreneurs and don't produce cults of converts.

there is also no federal regulatory scheme to cover what are essentially private jails-- i think if we viewed them as such, we'd get better regs because people recognize that when people are powerless to leave a situation in which there is no oversight, abuse is almost inevitable.

but right now, until you are 18, you have no right to appeal and no practical way of doing so if your parents want to send you to such a place.
posted by Maias at 8:42 PM on December 28, 2006 [6 favorites]


Maias, what a treat you dropped by this thread. Thank you for your excellent writing! I really respect and appreciate the work you've done.

what would make a huge difference would be requiring an independent evaluation of the child and the family before a parent could send a kid away-- and a requirement that the kid have access 24/7 to an abuse reporting hotline that would rapidly investigate all complaints. in addition, regs that oppose cruel and degrading and humiliating tactics (even if they are called "therapy") and the psychiatric notion of the "least restrictive setting" and re-assessing the child every few months for the ongoing need for a restrictive setting would make a difference as well.

Yes! Definitely!

I also like your other articles, in particular this one, In Defense of Happy Pills, and agree with you wholeheartedly on your opinions. -a topic derail- For abuse survivors who've been in therapy I don't think there has been any decent writing about life beyond being-in-recovery. If you have any suggested reading would you consider dropping me an email?

Excellent post and thread. Thanks daksya.
posted by nickyskye at 9:03 PM on December 28, 2006


I can't help but to think it's a matter of 10 or 20 years before White House or Congress gets the notion to send "wild teens" to shape up and ship out to America's front lines, or at least hot areas where reservists are doing duty. You know it would be a piece of cake for politicians to sell it under patriotism, honor, and restitution.

You see mandatory military service as a bad thing?

Done right, I think it'd make a world of difference. Young adults would have a much better sense of the world around them, and their ability to effect change.

Betcha they'd elect a better leader than your citizens have currently put into power.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:37 PM on December 28, 2006


I hate how kids have no right to fight their being sent to these awful places. They can be sent there without being diagnosed with anything, on a whim? Isn't it abuse to apply risky and violent treatments to an impressionable child for no reason? Child services should get these kids some less crazy caregivers.
posted by tehloki at 12:26 AM on December 29, 2006


I've always wondered how on earth this could be legal, but now I know the answer:

Guy Tunnell, who had founded and staffed the sheriff’s boot camp in which Anderson died, had gone on to head the Florida Department of Law Enforcement

Ok that's only one case. But I can only imagine how many others who run similar institutions are similarly well-connected to get authorities to close an eye or two.

Must be a combination of that and the mentality that supports this military approach to dealing with troubled kids, and parents laziness and incompetence and general idiocy (have serious doubts that parents doing this to their kids can be 'well-meaning and caring and intelligent', well maybe the first, roads paved with good intentions and all, but definitely not the last two things).

And if you think that mentality is restricted to the US, well have a read through here and here. Some choice quotes:

- So one teen died and suddenly we're all going to stop? What a spineless bunch we are all of a sudden. Did it ever occur to you that maybe this person was an evil little git? Or do we all subscribe to the idea that everyone is just "nice".

- I work as a Police community Support Officer on the South East coast and my Police Officer colleagues and I regularly discuss this issue. We all get very frustrated that the courts take NO action against repeat youth offenders. ...Bring in US style compulsory Boot Camps where the youths are litterally broken down mentally and then built back up with the respect taht they need! However, neither of these will ever happen as our beloved country has become too soft in her old age!

- Thugs and criminals whatever age, shouldn't have any rights. Boot camp is a great idea. It would install respect for authority and their parents / families.

- Two or three days in the slammer for anybody throwing their weight around with no questions asked. The police should be allowed more time before the young idiots can insist on any lawyer or any interference from anybody.

- Can we build a very large camp in deepest darkest Siberia soon? This stupid and crazy human rights nonsense via the EU should be thrown out

- Bring back the days of letting teachers issue the slipper, cane, board rubber/chalk being thrown at u across the classroom, ruller across the knuckles, clip round the ear, being made to run round a field 10 times, stand in the corner, a minor amount of physical pain does nobody any harm and it always taught me a lesson.

(plus infinite variations of the classic 'why can we no longer beat up our kids, it's political correctness gone mad')
posted by pleeker at 2:19 AM on December 29, 2006


I, for one, think everybody involved in these sorts of things should be imprisoned. From the governor all the way down to the parents. The judge should be disbarred and imprisoned, etc.... Why? Because "ignorance of these things is no excuse", thank you very much. I'm sorry, but when these places started being "hyped" back in the '80s, my brother and I were about the worst juvenile delinquents I've ever heard of. My brother spent some time in juvenile hall (and later county jail) for it, I just got away with it. Regardless, our parents would NEVER have sent us to one of these places, because they are not stupid and did research on them. Military School was always a threat, and that worked pretty well.
I understand, however, that the State was offering these private institutions as an option in sentencing of youth offendors. That, in my opinion, is unconscionable. Any legislator who was on the committee that came up with THAT one should be forced to spend time in one of them... preferably until some cop smothers them to death.
Did we learn nothing from the Stanford Prison Experiment? Bah, at least we Americans are treating our prisoners in Guatanamo and Abu Ghraib with the same dignity that we treat our own, I suppose.
posted by eparchos at 4:07 AM on December 29, 2006


pleeker: "And if you think that mentality is restricted to the US, well have a read through here and here. "

Obviously you're going to get some sort of hang 'em and flog 'em support from those people who might have been victims of crime, or had family members be victims of crime, but in reality, there isn't an awful lot of support for this sort of boot camp approach -- for several reasons.

Most important one is that it doesn't work. We've now got a mountain of research that shows that such an approach doesn't reduce recidivism -- rather, you get a group of fitter, more sophisticated criminals who are now hooked into a network of like minded people.

Secondly, techniques that are used on a daily basis in such schools in the USA, were long ago the subject of a serious scandal leading to a public enquiry here in the UK, and are now regarded as child abuse.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:44 AM on December 29, 2006


Done right, [mandatory military service would] make a world of difference. Young adults would have a much better sense of the world around them, and their ability to effect change.

But it's just about certain that it could never be done right. (Note lack of scare quotes.) And the last place I want "scared straight kids" is in the military -- especially if we're going to be using our military as a bully's cudgel around the world. If that's what we're using it for, then it becomes even more imperative that we staff it with professional soldiers who have a sense of institutional pride and honor.

But I agree with you wholeheartedly that mandatory service -- albeit, not military service -- could have a hugely positive impact on Ameican society. But (again, if done right) it would also have a hugely disruptive short-term economic impact, as you'd have millions of people doing work for little to no money for a year or so, and putting some people in low-end civil service positions out of work. That's a short term loss, of course, because a full-scale national civil service system would quickly develop a symbiotic superstructure of private service industries that would provide many jobs.

But as I said, it could never possibly be done right, not in modern America. We're too big and our political fighting is too bloodthirsty.
posted by lodurr at 5:42 AM on December 29, 2006


This is obviously bad, but it would horrify you to learn how many parents think beating their kids especially in public is the only way to raise them.

Mom to four-year-old, in the library where I work: "Get back over here 'fore I break your fuckin' arm."

We're all doomed.
posted by scratch at 8:10 AM on December 29, 2006


Back when I was a teenager -- at least in my neck of the woods -- problem kids weren't sent to such places. Instead, most of my friends were sent to the local mental hospital, often on the most flimsy of pretense. And that, my dear fellow MeFi-ites, is why today most health plans don't cover jack shit in the way of psychiatric care.
posted by ilsa at 8:58 AM on December 29, 2006


lawyer has since quit^,

Yagman (the temporary lawyer for the UCLA guy) is an odd and infamous guy in California legal circles, so his coming and going should not be considered the final word on any legal case.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:26 AM on December 29, 2006


PeterMcDermott - well those links were a discussion following a French minister's suggestion of compulsory boot camps, so what I meant was literally that that kind of mentality is not restricted to the US. Didn't mean to imply it would be as widespread in the UK, of course, but despite those changes in practice - and in reaction to that - it is still alive in some sections of the population, and it's not just the anger from victims of crime. It's not even necessarily about crimes.

There's an added level of hysteria about 'unruly youth' that rivals the one about terrorists and pedophiles. It brings out all the reactionaries form the woodworks.

Intrestingly, reality tv has shown some interest for the milder (?) forms of boot camp (for instance).
posted by pleeker at 10:24 AM on December 29, 2006


“charges have been filed in the Martin Lee Anderson case against the guards and the nurse but not against the higher-ups who devised the orders that they followed”

Fucking typical.

“It's an incredibly sick and corrosive ideology and profoundly depressing that this society believes that this is still an acceptable thing to do to kids.”

Same mentality as the Inquisition. You didn’t mind how much you tortured someone’s body because you knew you were saving their soul. Same form, different labels. The evil now isn’t Satan, it’s drugs or sex or whatever.

“You see mandatory military service as a bad thing?
Done right, I think it'd make a world of difference”

I’d agree FFF, except “done right” is the sticking point. Same reasons I have for being pro-gun and pro-choice. Who watches the watchman? If it was done right, solid. But who makes sure that it is done right? Typically the same people who stand to benefit from it not being done right. Seems like a similar situation here.
And the approach here isn’t military, it’s paramilitary. It’s got some of the trappings of military training, but very little to do with any actual training principles. (I agree with elpapacito some guys watched Full Metal Jacket a few too many times)
Not for lack of trying in some quarters though. Lot of folks in the administration seem to want to turn it into that. But y’know, screw Jeff Gannon and it’s like you were in ‘Nam.

Furthermore - executive types - cops, correctional officers, military personnel who have never been involved in training anyone, etc. - are the wrong people to be doing this. Law enforcement in particular. They are used to being lied to even by victims (f’rinstance - domestic battery case, the victim gives you a fake name, so...you subpeona them how? You help them how?) so naturally the suspect someone is ‘faking’ when they say they can’t breathe. And they see only the 2-d dichotomy - authority and defiance. There’s no nuances in their social system and they’re not used to having to earn respect or build trust, like y’know, a leader would. Or a role model. And that’s what the kids need. Especially if their parents won’t/can’t do it.
And there’s the bottom line, why should I have to pay higher taxes for more t.o.’s and D.I.s etc. just so mom & dad can have peice of mind - and why wait until their of service age?
I’d rather see something done through the education process or child services at a much earlier date. Just because someone is “unruly” doesn’t mean they’d be much good serving their country - or anything else - in whatever capacity.
You’d have to hire people to watch them dig ditches or file or whatever. Just seems less effcient than having classes our counseling for parents and kids at a younger age.
Not that the service idea isn’t a good one in general - but I don’t know that it’s suited to this purpose.

(and thank you maias)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:10 PM on December 29, 2006 [1 favorite]




Done right, [mandatory military service would] make a world of difference. Young adults would have a much better sense of the world around them, and their ability to effect change.

Well done right, but done left ? I mean, it is a nonsense from any angle.

I _was_ conscripted and millions like me were up until a few years ago. It was a COMPLETE waste of time in which I serviced people unable to do any job that didn't involve yelling at others what they had to do. I literally created and maintained an Access database (which in itself is no big feat, but just try doing it, you need to know how to do that you can't cheat it) to maintain some information, but all my superiors cared about was that I found a way to do their job and on top of this I managed to prepare some not hard college exam , not considering side military routine services such as cleaning et al.

Was it hard ? Yes, there is harder stuff , but still.
Did I learn something ? Yeah, that people can be undermotivated, underpaid, uncontrolled and that both private and public system can crash in a snap. Was it formative from an human point of view ?

Well that means anything and nothing, but I have fond memories of finding a few people that, like me, organized ways to undercut and cheat the superior , basically supporting each other, but for all the wrong reasons except normal egotistical ones.
We've now got a mountain of research that shows that such an approach doesn't reduce recidivism -- rather, you get a group of fitter, more sophisticated criminals who are now hooked into a network of like minded people.
To an extent that happened in my group as well : if by criminal one means "entertaining illicit behavior" what do you think bout smoking pot into the commanding officier room ? Many knew, nobody said a word, the dogs were summoned , but we understood it was pure scare tactics.

Yet we weren't desensitized, but as any humans we adapted to a corrupted environment, becoming lazy and avoidant and careless, but extremely well versed at avoiding work at much as possible.

Conscription done right ? I'd rather work one month in Katrina reconstruction projects, making mistakes and being corrected by psycologially sound, experienced instructors, with mixed races and languages and behaviors.
posted by elpapacito at 12:55 PM on December 29, 2006


I'd been rather imagining that with umpteen million young adult conscriptees, the USA would, y'know, put them to useful work. Like, yah, Katrina reconstruction projects. Fighting wildfires in Australia. Helping tsumnai victims. All sorts of Good Deeds need doing.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:48 PM on December 29, 2006


five fresh fish: if you still believe this administration can do anything with their expansive resources that makes sense on a national scale, you must have your head up your ass.
posted by tehloki at 11:44 PM on December 29, 2006


Isn't your military generally competent?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:59 AM on December 30, 2006


Isn't your military generally competent?

The American military is a finely-engineered, well-maintained gun. The American civilian-elected government is the one who aims and shoots that gun.

The finest firearm is useless in the hands of a short-sighted monkey.
posted by PsychoKick at 2:51 AM on December 30, 2006


fff: ...Katrina reconstruction projects. Fighting wildfires in Australia. Helping tsumnai victims. All sorts of Good Deeds need doing.
  1. Political realities in the US being what they are, the process of setting up such a service would rapidly degenerate into pork-brokering as one congressman after another angled for special projects in their own district. More to the point, one senator after another (oh, hell, the reps would be in on it too, for sure) would posture and speechify about specific characteristics of the service: Somebody'd want queers barred from service, others would make conscripts sign a legally binding contract stating they would never have an abortion, and then some other wacko would put a rider on it requiring tht they all observe 55 "moments of contemplateion" at 8:17 every Sunday morning. Our system, as it works right now, has no effective way of preventing that jackass bullshit from being written into laws.
  2. There would (as I alluded) be a significant economic impact for introducing a lot of cheap labor into the civil labor pool. I imagine a lot of these kids would be doing stuff like working road crews, staffing DMV windows, picking up garbage, etc. (Between the more noble and exciting projects that, you're right, they'd be useful for.) That puts a fair number of public employees out of work, and replaces some private contractors with civil conscripts.You'll be well aware of how much we WORSHIP the INVISIBLE HAND, and the displacement of private contractors would greatly offend that worship -- and interrupt the flow of kickbacks and backscratches from the private contractors.(Of course we could expect a private services sector to spring up around the conscript organization, but that would take time, and only the more visionary operators will see that coming and be positioned to exploit it. First, though, they'd defend their turf.)
  3. Then there's money: It would take a lot of money to implement such a service. Certainly, if done right, a civil conscription corps could save a lot of money, too, as they replace or augment local civil labor. More importantly, they could be used to tackle projects that ordinarily wouldn't get tackled for lack of labor. But that's a plus, and I'm just talking about negatives...
  4. Finally, there's the issue of quality: How do you maintain quality of work with a bunch of civil conscripts? Very difficult. I can imagine a lot of ways, but again, would there be the political will to [a] experiment, and (more importantly) [b] to understand the results of the experiments and then implement new policies based on those results. In the US right now? Not likely.
So, great idea. I strongly suggest you get a movement going to implement it in Canada. It might actually work there.
posted by lodurr at 5:40 AM on December 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


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