Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Thursday, May 23, 2002
From the Trenches of the Drug War - The Straight Facts

"Staff members directed me to physically batter and verbally assault other clients. They gave me this directions when I was a client and when I was a Staff Trainee. I carried them out. So did hundreds if not tens of thousands of other kids. . . As hard as it has been to live with the reality of being clinically abused for nearly two years, it cannot compare with the complete nightmare of living with the fact that I abused other people repeatedly in the name of a thought control cult. It cannot compare with the nightmare of knowing that some of the people I abused have ended up in jail, or dead, and that I contributed to the destruction of their lives."

James, Straight-Atlanta

"Several children attempted suicide while staying with host families, but the attempts were not reported and the children were not treated. . . Some teen-age clients were forced to reveal their sexual fantasies during group sessions. Others were subjected to "spit therapy," where children would spit on each other to reduce their egos."

Jacqueline M. Ennis, formerly head of licensing for Virginia's Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, speaking about Straight. [Saint Petersburg Times, 7-31-91]

"So we were very concerned about a program which we looked at as being something of a private jail, utilizing techniques of torture and punishment which even a convicted criminal wouldn't be subject to. . . and I use their terminology--restraint techniques, it would be our terminology that it was child abuse and torture--was directed by Miller Newton."

David Levin, formerly assistant state attorney for Sarasota, Florida commenting on Straight's former national clinical director Reverend Doctor Miller Newton on CBS' West 57th Street (1-21-89)

Samantha Monroe was 12 years old in 1981 when her parents enrolled her in the Sarasota, Fla., branch of Straight Inc., an aggressive drub rehab center for teens.

Barely a teen, Samantha also had no history of drug abuse. But she spent the next two years of her life surviving Straight.

She was beaten, starved and denied toilet privileges for days on end. She describes her "humble pants," a punishment that forced her to wear the same pants for six weeks at a time. Because she was allowed just one shower a week, the pants often filled with feces, urine and menstrual blood. Often she was confined to her closet for days. She gnawed through her jaw during those "timeout" sessions, hoping she'd bleed to death.

She says that after she was raped by a male counselor, "the wonderful state of Florida paid for and forced me to have an abortion."

"Drug War Casualties" by Radley Balko, Fox News

"Straight represents one of the worst excesses created by the drug war environment, where 'anything goes' kind of intolerance toward drug users prevails. It is a cult. plain and simple, of people who seize on parent's frustrations with their youngsters and then subject the kids to torture and brainwashing to make them obedient and drug-free."

Dr. Arnold Trebach, attorney, author and professor emeritus of criminal justice at American University and founder of The Drug Policy Foundation

"According to sworn testimony, Straight often left restrained group members sitting in their own urine, feces or vomit until suitable concessions were extracted."

Dr. Barry Beyerstein

"Straight is not a health care organization. It is a business posing as a health care organization and as a result hundreds of kids have been hurt. All of the business operations consist of fraud, double and triple billing of health insurance companies at the same time and they bill government grants while telling parents they are not the recipients of any kinds of government money."

Janet Kennedy, Ph.D. Pharmacy, MS, Hospital Administration, of Austin, Texas after a private, three year investigation of Straight. [Channel 12, Eye on Tampa Bay Show, 1992]

The above quotes refer to Straight, an abusive drug treatment program primarily for teens. Most come from this web page.

What happens to the person who creates a program like this that, under the guise of therapy, abuses adolescents and destroys their lives? Some of the actions taken against the founders of Straight are listed here:

  • the straight program continues to receive government money - over $400,000 in subsidies in 2000.
  • Governor Jeb Bush declared August 8, 2000 Betty Sembler Day, in honor of one of the co-founders.
  • Her husbard and fellow Straight founder, Mel Sembler, is presently US Ambassador to Italy, after having been Ambassador to Australia for Poppy Bush.

The author of the above article has posted several responses to it on his blog. Thanks to Eve Tushnet for the original reference.