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Proposed forum for ex-juvenile drug rehab cult members

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Aug 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM8/8/98
SUBJECT: Request for Show of Interest for an Internet Forum on Straight-like,
Abusive Juvenile Drug Rehab Cults

DISSEMINATION. Please disseminate to interested parties as freely as possible

BACKGROUND ON STRAIGHT, INC. Straight, Inc. was the biggest juvenile drug
rehabilitation program in America during the 1980s and early 1990s. Straight
used no medical doctors in its therapeutic approach to rehabilitation–rather it
relied on kids-helping-kids in marathon synanon-type screaming sessions where
kids yelled at one another 12 hours a day, 5 ˝ days a week. There were
numerous allegations of brainwashing, of making kids sit in their own urine and
feces, of beatings and broken bones, of sexual abuses, of food and sleep
deprivation, of forced sexual group discussions, of siblings visiting a brother
or sister only to be forced into Straight themselves. Many kids attempted
suicide at Straight, some killed themselves once they were released. Perhaps
as many as 30 - 40,000 kids were incarcerated at Straight. Program revenues,
including donations, approached $100 million. George Bush made a TV
commercial for Straight and appointed Straight's co-founders to US
ambassadorships. Nancy Regan visited several Straight camps around the
country. White House Drug Czar and founding director of the National Institute
on Drug Abuse, Dr. Robert DuPont, was a paid Straight consultant, and almost
all White House Drug Czars in the 1980s were favorable to Straight. Today the
Straight Foundation is called the Drug Free America Foundation, Inc. DFAF
strongly opposes the medicalization of Schedule 1 drugs. There are several
Straight-like programs still in existence (though not necessarily abusive).

PURPOSE OF THIS MESSAGE. A proposal has been made to the USENET to establish a
discussion group to discuss issues dealing with Straight-like, synanon-based,
12 Step juvenile drug rehabilitation programs which allegedly brainwash youths,
abuse youths, or falsely imprison youths? A return message to me from as many
people as possible stating the desirability of such a forum is required in
order to justify to network administrators the need for such a forum..

JUSTIFICATION FOR SUCH A FORUM. Most people assume that Straight closed down
in 1993, but did it? In order for you to understand the need for such a forum,
I will brief you on the following topics:

1. Has Straight really closed?
2. Are any existing Straight-like programs still abusing children?
3. How is the Drug Free America Foundation (the new Straight) affecting
national drug policy

1. HAS STRAIGHT REALLY CLOSED? Since 1970 there have been, or continue to
exist, over 40 Straight-like treatment facilities (though not necessarily
abusive) in America and in Canada. You probably assumed that Straight just
sort of faded away in the early 1990s due to a plethora of civil suits and
state criminal investigations--but did it? Straight-Sarasota closed in 1983
amidst a state criminal investigation. Straight-Cincinnati closed in 1987 on
the opening day of court proceedings against it. Straights in Southern
California and Virginia Beach closed in 1990 amidst state investigations.
Straight-DC closed in 1991 on the eve of its requested court hearing
challenging a state decision not to renew its license. Straights in Boston and
Dallas closed in 1991 amidst state investigations, as did Straight-Maryland in
1992. Straight Orlando had its license placed on a temporary status in 1991 and
closed in 1992 amidst state scrutiny. In April 1993 Straight finally closed
its founding center in Saint Petersburg, Florida and transferred its clients to
Straight-Atlanta. The last Straight treatment facility, at least under the
name Straight, Straight-Atlanta, closed on July 1-2, 1993, but 11 days before
it closed, on June 21, 1993, a woman named Kathleen M. Cone incorporated a
Straight-like program called Phoenix Institute for Adolescents in Marietta,
Georgia just 4 ˝ miles from Straight's facility where it operates today.
Kathleen Cone had been the registered agent for Straight-Atlanta. Three days
before that, on June 18, 1993, a Straight-like program named Pathway Family
Center was incorported only 15 miles from the old Straight facility near
Detroit. Helen Gowanny, an officer at Pathway, had been the registered agent
for Straight-Detroit! In 1992 Straight closed its Orlando treatment facility,
but on the very day it closed, Straight-Orlando's director Michael Scaletta
opened the Straight-like program SAFE (now known as ACE) in the same facility
where Straight had been. Former Straight officer Dr. George Ross helped found
Kids Helping Kids of Hebron, Ky in the early 1980s. Today it is known as Kids
Helping Kids of Cincinnati and operates out of the old Straight-Cincinnati
facility in Milford, Ohio. At least 2 former Straight workers have worked for
this program. Another currently active Straight-like program with tie-ins to
George Ross is Growing Together in Lake Worth, Florida. When former Straight
national clinical director, Dr. V. Miller Newton left Straight in the early
1980s, he set up his own Straight-like chain based in New Jersey called KIDS.
KIDS in Secaucus continues to operate, but all its franchises closed under
allegations of abusing children. When KIDS Southern California franchise was
closed by the state, Straight moved into the facility. When the KIDS franchise
in Salt Lake City closed in 1990, Life Line, currently active, opened in the
same location. AARC, currently operating in Calgary, Canada is a spin-off from
Newton's KIDS program. Second Chance which currently operates in Memphis
Tennessee was founded by Rev. Scotty Cassidy, who is believed to be another
Straight alumni. Straight, Inc. closed in 1993, but Straight Foundation, Inc.
continued to operate until December 5, 1995 when it changed its name to its
current name Drug Free America Foundation, Inc.


KIDS OF NORTH JERSEY. In 1990 Karen Norton was awarded $721,000 by a Florida
jury for being abused at Straight in the early 1980s. She testified that
Straight's national clinical director Rev. Dr. V. Miller Newton had thrown her
against a wall. One published account states that this same man grabbed a 15
year-old girl named Leah Bright by the hair, threw her to the floor and
sentenced her to no sleep for an extended period of time. Faced with these
accusations and others, Dr. Newton left Straight in the early 1980s to form his
own Straight-like program chain in Hackensack, NJ called KIDS of Bergen County.
By 1989 county prosecutors say they found incidences of black eyes, strip
searches, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, denial of right to leave
when a client reaches the age of 18. Newton changed the programs name to KIDS
of North Jersey and moved to Secaucus in 1990 where he operates today. In 1993
three KIDS counselors were convicted for beating a teenager in their care. One
of the convicted counselors, Michael O'Connor, said that beatings were routine
at KIDS. In January 1998 KIDS counselor Patricia Logan was convicted
(apparently of simple assault) for an assault against client Celena Moore. Her
case stemmed from one of many criminal complaints brought against KIDS
counselors in 1996. One 1996 assault charge was against a KIDS' counselor who
has already been convicted for the 1993 beating of another client. Another
1996 charge was made by Marilyn Kearns (age 23) who claims she was kidnaped and
held against her will. Other criminal charges involving KIDS filed in Secaucus
in 1996 include Ethyl Moore against Erin Moss and Jenny Logan (the sister of
Patricia Logan who was convicted in January 1998). [ Jennifer Logan is listed
as one of the defendants in Jennifer Woolston's civil suit against KIDS of Salt
Lake City in 1989.] Other 1996 charges include: Andrea Jones against Erin
Moss; Sharon Tyler against Miller Newton; and Chrysis Johnson against Miller
Newton. In 1996 two local TV stations broadcast damaging exposés on KIDS.
There is an outstanding civil case against Newton and KIDS by Rebecca Ehrlich
for causing psychological damage to her daughter. In Sep 1996--KIDS agreed to
pay $45,000 to the federal government to settle charges of 254 fraudulent
insurance claims. Psychiatrist Raymond Edelman says KIDS used his rubber stamp
after he left the program for fraudulent claims. In 1989, apparently at the
request of the New Jersey Department of Health, Newark Administrative Judge
Edith Klinger released a damaging 53 page study of KIDS of Bergen County in
which she stated, "Many of the deficiencies . . . create hazards to health and
safety." Yet in spite of this report the Department of Health decided to grant
KIDS its own special license.

GROWING TOGETHER, LAKE WORTH, FLORIDA. In 1990 Judge Michael Gersten said of
it, "Everything I see smacks of child abuse." In 1990 responding to complaints
state health officials demanded the removal of 11 clients, but Growing Together
won a court decision to deny the state agents the right to interview clients in
private. According to a state investigation, in early 1993 Growing Together
client Travis Stone told his peer counselors that he felt "depressed and
overwhelmed" and would commit suicide if sent back to jail. Six months later
Mr. Stone committed suicide and the state investigation concluded that he might
be alive today if program officials had acted upon Mr. Stone's feelings. A
police report filed last year describes an incident where two oldcomers held a
boy down from behind while a third tried to orally sodomize him. One boy
masturbated in the newcomer's hair, the third ejaculated on his back. Also
last year a riot occurred at Growing Together and police arrests were made.

SAFE, Orlando, Florida. Former Straight-Orlando director Michael Scaletta
formed SAFE in the same facility that Straight had used in 1992. One state
licensing investigation of SAFE found that there had been 29 reports of
restraints at SAFE in 1 month, but only 1 restraint in the last 3 months at all
other juvenile residential programs combined!

NATIONAL DRUG POLICY TODAY? Straight Foundation, Inc. changed its name in
1995 to the Drug free America Foundation, Inc. (DFAF). Its corporate officers
as of March 1998 are Mel Sembler, Walter Loebenberg, and Joseph Garcia–all
three former Straight officers--Mel Sembler being a Straight co-founder. A
recent DFAF flier states that the foundation was founded by Mel Sembler and his
wife Betty Sembler. The DFAF is against the legalization of Schedule 1 drugs
even for medical use. Betty Sembler who pawns herself off as a drug
prevention/education specialist also founded Save Our Society from Drugs (SOS).
SOS is also dedicated to preventing the medicalization of Schedule 1 drugs.
In January of this year Ms Sembler accompanied Florida's governor Lawton Chiles
to a cabinet meeting where she helped convince the cabinet to disapprove a
Florida citizen's iniative to medicalize drugs.

Naifeh and Smith's The Best Doctors in America (1994 and 1995) lists Dr. Robert
L. DuPont, Jr. and Dr. Mark Gold as among the best addiction treatment
specialists in the country. Dr. Robert L. DuPont was a key player for
Straight. While director for NIDA in the 1970s (and also the White House Drug
Czar) he managed a $1.8 million grant to The Seed--Straight's
predecessor--which was accused in a US Senate report of using methods likened
to communist brainwashing techniques. After leaving NIDA , Dr. DuPont became
a paid consultant for Straight–once boasting that he was the man who suggested
that Straight go national. Dr. DuPont represented Straight all around the
country in its many civil suits for abusing kids. Dr. DuPont was quoted on CNN
in 1997 as opposing the medicalization of marijuana.

Straight is a drug treatment facility that does not use medical doctors in its
therapeutic process. Dr. Mark Gold is a world renowned psychiatrist who does
use medical professionals in his treatment process. Before I tell you how Dr.
Mark Gold fits into the Straight scenario, let me give some background
information about him. In the 1980s Dr. Mark Gold, formerly research director
for Fair Oaks Hospital in Summit, New Jersey [a member of the giant hospital
chain NME (National Medical Enterprises, Inc.)] invented the 1-800-COCAINE
hot-line. If you called the toll-free number chances are you would be referred
to an NME hospital or one of its subsidiary PIA s (Psychiatric Institutes of
America) provided you had a good health insurance plan, or you would be
referred to the nearest public health facility if you did not. If you called
inside Florida you were probably transferred to a Florida hotline managed by
Dr. Gold's cousin Peter which, if you had insurance, referred you to PIA's
Fair Oaks Hospital in Delray Beach, Florida where the cocaine treatment cure
costed $22,000 for a 28 day stay! Cable TV's The Justice Files did a segment
on PIA in 1991 in which Robert Stuckey, an NME hospital official, was quoted
saying that if a person came into the hospital for alcoholism and his insurance
coverage for alcoholism was $10,000, but his coverage for depression was
$50,000, then his diagnosis would be changed and he would be treated for
depression. James Hutchison, a psychologist who used to run the outpatient
program at NME's Baywood Hospital in Texas said that prizes like pizzas,
theater and sports tickets were given to employees who were responsible for the
most admissions to the hospital. He claims that the hospital's outreach
program of sending guidance counselors, drug-abuse counselors, and speakers to
public schools were ploys to identify people who might be admitted to care. It
was the hot line's director Arnold Washton who started the lie that crack
cocaine is "instantly addictive" from an interview he gave to Newsweek in the
March 17, 1986 issue. Dr. Gold was a consultant to Reagan's drug czar and to
drug czar Bennett. DuPont's co-hort and former Drug Czar Lee Dogoloff
apparently joined Dr. Gold at Fair Oaks Hospital. Former White House drug
czars Dogoloff, DuPont and Bennett endorse the jacket of Gold's book Good News
About Drugs and Alcohol.

Dr. Mark Gold serves on the board of directors of Betty Sembler's (wife of
Straight co-founder Mel Sembler) Save Our Society From Drugs. I'll just add
that Bill Oliver, Straight's former national executive director, went on to
become director for parent training at PRIDE.

CONCLUSION. Clearly a forum is desirable so that health professionals,
educators, individuals desiring drug policy reform, and former Straight clients
and former clients from some Straight-like programs can be apprised of new
developments in Straight-like programs. And so that these former clients can
discuss their experiences and after-affects from being in a Straight-like
program. What I need from you is feed back to say that such a forum is
desirable, and whether you would frequent it from time-to-time. The proposed
USENET name is "".

Please send replies to me:
Wesley Fager
Oakton Institute for Cultic Studies

May 5, 2017, 9:00:56 PM5/5/17
i was there in NJ. it still haunts me till this day, i wish i was able to help the poor kids that were locked up in this HELL of a place with me. Ill never forget the pain!!!!

Jun 20, 2018, 8:00:10 PM6/20/18
What is the email address? Its not showing fully. Thanks

Jun 20, 2018, 8:01:27 PM6/20/18
I was also there in NJ.. I have terrible flashbacks and memories of this place. My brother od'd not long after we were removed from there.

Dec 9, 2018, 6:04:33 PM12/9/18
I'm definitely interested in being involved in this. I only recently began recovering memories from my early years.

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