A testimony from a former Uinta Academy resident

This testimony was found on Yelp. It can have been removed since we harwested it.

I’m going to be honest and open about this review, it might be lengthy, but I have a lot of feelings about this place. My mom spent about three days straight coming through the internet for anything she could find on Uinta, and I hope a prospective parent sees this. Uinta was… in a word, challenging. I might be a unique case. I went to Uinta for borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and depression. Before Uinta, I had expressed feelings to my mom that I was in fact a transmale and begged her to just let me pass as male. Most of my outbursts of self-harm were following these events. Uinta’s therapists chalked that up to the borderline personality disorder and me needing attention. Since I have gotten back from Uinta, my mom finally did allow me to male pass and my current therapists agree I didn’t actually have those personality disorders, those actions were all a direct result of me not being allowed to be who I really am on the inside. Everyday at Uinta I got told I had to put on makeup to impress boys, it was constantly shoved into my face that I was a girl, and they made me think I was some monster who was doing all this just to hurt my mother.

Uinta didn’t save my life. I’ve been out of there for eleven months since writing this and I still have nightmares. The suffocating feeling that drowned me while there still haunts me when I’m alone with my thoughts. At Uinta, I didn’t learn to change or be a better person. I learned to shut up, to suck-up to people, and how to be a better actor. At Uinta I developed severe panic disorder (I now frequently have panic attacks) and I also developed a worse form of PTSD than I had previously had. A lot of the other girls that I’ve spoken to since Uinta talk about the nightmares we still have, the bruises they’ve got from staff members, one girl was even talking to me about how a staff member called her a “dirty Jew” on more than one occasion.

Not to be cheesey, but I can sort of some up Uinta in this one quote from a western movie (seems fitting because it’s out in Utah, don’t you agree?) which is, “If you’re gonna shoot, shoot to kill. These people have all been shot at before, bullet-holes don’t impress ’em.” Uinta certainly aimed to kill me, and certainly impressed me with how pernicious it was. I didn’t preserve because I wanted to find happiness or find myself, I preserved because I wanted to talk to my mom again, see my little brother who was born while I was there, and get back to what really makes me happy. I didn’t form friendships there, I formed alliances, everyday of my life for a year I felt like I was in a warzone. I got through it like someone who’s been shot before, someone who looks into the barrel of a gun fearlessly because they’ve conquered the pain that follows. I know Uinta was the worst thing to happen to me in my entire life. I hated it, and I truly believe Jeff and Becky are milking the parents for all they’ve got. But, now that it’s behind me I know nothing can rival the pain and trauma it’s caused me.

Overall, I really REALLY advise listening to your child. Try moving, if you can, let them experience new things, see new people. Tell them you love them so very much. I am no expert, and I don’t know you, but I know you are in a very, very tough spot. I believe you and your child can get through this, but maybe Uinta isn’t the answer. For me, the answer was moving to an accepting place where I finally had friends and being able to know my mom loves me and will always support me. That might not be the answer for everyone. Just remember, even though I have never met you and most likely never will, I believe in you and I believe in your love for your child. You’ll get through this. I know you will. Godspeed and the best of luck. If you have any questions, you can email me at aquafreshest@gmail.com, my mom or I would be happy to help!

Discovery Academy testimony by nirik83

They destroyed me mentally and physically

I was sent to Discovery Academy in Provo at the age of 14. I had some addiction problems and some behavior issues.

I was forced to stand demerits and was abused mentally sexually and physically by the staff there. When they broke my arm for fighting back, they called my family and told them that I was the most disturbed violent child they had to deal with in a long time. My family is in NYC, so they had no way of checking on me regularly since I wasn’t aloud to make phone calls and my mail was screened before it went out. I was LOST ALONE and STUCK in a Prison that claimed to be a therapeutic boarding school.

Dr.Thorne and his family were the owners at the time and are probably the most disgusting human being I have ever met, not only did they not care about the kids living conditions, being abused or beaten they acted like they were gods if we ever stood up for our selves we were forced to stand facing a wall for 15 min intervals not to mention there son Dennis aka Denny Thorne was a drug abusing pedophile of the highest order. I know this is old news but I felt the need to share my experience, so maybe a child can avoid what I had to go through. Parents, please listen to your children accusations of abuse should be taken seriously at all costs. 3 years after leaving on my 18th birthday I had started to abuse heroin just to hide from my memories now 15 years later I have just finally gotten my life on track with a lot of therapy and money spent on real treatment.

If you are the kind of parent who looks at costs for this instead of benefits for your child, then you had better be ready to spend 10x the amount of boarding schools just to deal with the black hole that they leave your child with.

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The original testimony on Reddit

A mother about her daughters stay at Timberlawn in Texas

First off, my 14 year old daughter is an amazing kid! She is very smart, responsible, mature and dependable. No behavioral problems at all, but she has always suffered and struggled with bad anxiety and daily panic attacks. I have had her in therapy for years now, but her condition hasn’t improved. I began looking for some more intensive care for her and thought an inpatient program, where the doctors could witness her panic attacks for themselves, might be a good fit. She and I were then sent Timberlawn by Children’s Hospital.

Upon arrival, the front office in the white house was very scary. I had concerns, but was assured by the receptionist that the adolescent facility was nothing like the front office. We waited for nine and a half hours for my daughter be admitted. Once admitted, I was happy to see that the adolescent unit was in a different building. I got her signed in and settled. The following day, I went for visitation and had a traumatizing experience. The others girls (patients) were running around screaming, banging on walls, fighting, cops were there, there were run aways, and a couple of girls were shouting death threats to my daughter and another girl there. I pulled my daughter aside to speak with her privately. She told me how poorly she was being treated by the staff and some of the others patients. She had to ask repeatedly for her medications and was experiencing withdrawal symptoms before she finally received them. Another girl had slipped her a note telling how she was going to sneak into her room that night and kill her. There were pentegrams drawn on her bedroom walls and bed. There was a lesbian making sexual comments to her about what she wanted to do to her. She told me the staff turned on rap music that wasn’t even edited and was singing along to it with some of the patients. She said there were two groups sessions that day, but that nothing was accomplished, due to fights and outburst from the other patients. During the day, they all sat in the main room and watched tv. My daughter said the girls all watched the show “Criminal Minds” nonstop! Wow just can’t imagine that being a healthy show for this group of girls. There was not constant supervisor like I had been promised. My daughter had three trips to the cafeteria while she was there. She said each time, the boys beat on the windows and walls and yelled at them the whole time they ate.

The place was miserably cold, and they are all given only one thin blanket. My daughter was woken up repeated throughout the night with an LED flashlight being shined in her face, even though she has reported sleeping difficulties. The staff was terribly disorganized and they were not the caring influence I thought I was signing my child up for. This place was a nightmare. I wanted a calm, peaceful, healthy environment for my anxiety ridden daughter to receive the treatment she needed. Instead, I am afraid my daughter is going to having lasting trauma from this experience. Timberlawn is NOT the place for kids who genuinely need help with mental issues. The only people I witnesses there were criminals and girls with severe behavoral issues. If you have a child who is a bully and you are trying to teach them a lesson, or if you have a child you are trying to scare straight and don’t mind them possibly being abused or attacked, then this place might work for your family. If your child truly needs some help with mental or emotional struggles, STAY AWAY!!!!!

I signed my daughter out after that first night! Of course they threatened the 24 hour hold on her and refused to let me take her home. I was forced to wait until the doctor agreed to release her. Please beware of this place. I will never be the same after this experience of fearing for my child’s safety and being forced to leave her there, knowing she could be attacked and was not being cared for.

The Hospital will close 2018 after the state started an investigation

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Liahona Academy testimony

Liahona Academy is a boot camp styled boarding school for boys located outside Virgin in Utah. A boy died there in 2010.

I used to believe my 7 months in Liahona Academy had torn my soul from my own body, now I am so blessed to have known what having a loss of freedom feels like and it never leaves you.

My time is best spent in the light but I NEED to cast a spotlight upon private institutions such as this… I wanted a perfect ending and through experience I have learned the hard way, that some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it! Without care towards what is going to happen next but always expecting ambiguity. It could all be for nothing or possibly for everything but their is no cure for this as many good people have been convinced that society is breaking down and it is collapsing around their children, they see their children trying drugs and believe they are going to die…

My parents thought they took me to a place that was ran by professionals with an amazing success rate, the best place in the country! When in reality they were just creating molded tin soldiers. The staff did not have any serious certifiable knowledge or education to provide therapy of any kind to anyone for anything! Think about a situation where people are told you can physically, mentally and emotionally abuse other people in your own group because you are doing them a favor… Children become incredibly cruel in this type of environment, systematically setting a Lord of The Flies mentality among youth. The least human part of ourselves come out because that kind of anger comes from fear… It does not come from anything else but being scared out of your own mind!

I need to let the people responsible that we remember and are not a bunch of teenagers anymore, I am going to tell the world about how you destroyed families… I am going to let them know the horrible things you taught children to do to each other and how people killed themselves to get away from that pain YOU manifested within them. During the Vietnam war it was a phrase to say, “We need to destroy the village in order to save it.” Well, some parents have said, “I need to destroy my kid in order to save him.” Look at all of us, we are a bunch of broken kids, but here we are and they are still doing it to other kids. Do NOT give up on on your child, if you send a loved one to this place, it will cast a shadow of doubt that you as a parent had no intention to help but to throw away. Luckily they did not consider the type of person I had always pushed myself to be and I was one of the kids that had gotten it easy compared to those who did not. Some would swear being saved by kissing the boots of these self proclaimed child repairmen but others have felt ruin and torment…

This place was not the worst time in my life, that was when I was a young child, traumatized, but it did allow me to see a reason why people hurt other people, it is because of places like Liahona Academy. You teach nothing but tough love and self loathing, you will not get away with it…

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A. M. about a stay at Turn-about Ranch

Turn-about Ranch is today mostly known for a murder a resident committed as result of a psycologic breakdown and it sponsoring of the Dr. Phil entertainment show. It has detained teenagers for many years. Here is a young adult testimony about a stay at the ranch when the auhtor was teenager.

THIS PLACE SHOULD BE ILLEGAL.

As a young adult who was sent here as a teenager, I can say with complete certainty: THIS PLACE IS RUN BY SICK, SICK PEOPLE and SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT.

They literally abuse children if they don’t follow their rules. They make the children work in the fields for no pay. Work is fine and it is good for you, but when the company has a monopoly on local land and we’re pulling down multiple harvests in a single season, eating cheap food and also doing all the maintenance upkeep on the multiple, giant properties this company owns….you put two and two together. These hustlers are like John McCain screwed Ned Flanders, with a bit of Plantation boss worship thrown in to boot. They’re fleecing the parents just rich enough to afford this, but just dumb enough to realize the profit angle which is really going on here.

I was taken there by some strange men who abducted me in my home—I awoke at 4 am, handcuffed to some jarhead looking dude, taken me to an airport, and told me I would get hurt if I tried to run away. Thinking back, I notice they took off the handcuffs when I passed through the airport. I.e., what they were doing was illegal. They didn’t want actual law enforcement to see a kid being put on a plane by a civilian in handcuffs. Doesn’t look good, does it? And so on. Religious fundamentalism, yuppie cash, and hick yokels make for quite a sick place.

If any parents are considering this, I would hope they consider asking themselves what kind of a parent just gives their child away to people they don’t even know. Chances are, your kid is “out of control” because you have taught them nothing about how to really enjoy life. They’re taking drugs because nothing in their life so far has compared, in terms of feeling that sense of wholeness that comes from being truly happy. You probably don’t even know what happiness is yourself. So it goes. A decade or so later, and the more and more I think about it, the more I think about putting together a class-action lawsuit. I was in no way rehabilitated, and those who sent me here have since never even talked about it to me. It has just been brushed under the rug. So much for genuine concern. And so much for that time and that cash. The older I get, I see this is just a legally-sanctioned way for parents to sell off their responsibilities for a while.

Again, This place should be shut down and investigated. And parents need to take a hard look in the mirror about what kind of example they themselves set. The more you pay attention, the more you notice most people think they can just spend their way into Heaven. Well, fuck that.

See the legal definitions for child abduction, child abuse, and child labor for what this place has to offer.

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Samantha at Diamond Ranch Academy

This testimony was found on another wordpress blog.

Diamond Ranch Academy was one of the worst experiences of my life.

I was sent there at 16, and within my first week the girls in my dorm poured water in my shoes and urinated in the bath if they knew it was my turn to clean it. On my first phone call to my mom when I tried to tell her what was happening my therapist hung up the phone and told me I couldn’t tell her stuff that happened here. I couldn’t even tell her when a boy died on the other campus. Later on I made the best friends of my life, but if anything I made more connections for drugs there then I had before.

I did not graduate the program after 18 months, but I earned a GED and my mom pulled me. My first week there was a homeless staff restraining a boy student and broke his wrist. I watched staff pick on autistic kids in homeless, and restrain a diabetic girl while she was having a high blood sugar rush. I watched a girl have a seizure and everyone thought she was lying. After she came back from the hospital they tried making her do calisthenics with the rest of us (later that day) after the doctors told them to let her rest.

I made friends with some of the staff who truly cared but you must keep in mind the staff that are watching your kids in their dorms at night are college students themselves aged 18+ and that was the hardest part. look up the Stanford Prison Experiment and you will understand why they should have staffed people who were majoring in helping dysfunctional youth and not college kids. there is a very high relapse rate after graduating. Many of my friends came back to DRA months later for their free month you get when you graduate.

I have a great relationship with my mom because I worked for it AFTER leaving. While there you are allowed to talk to your child every other week for 45 minutes. My mother and I didn’t get anything worked out until I came home and we had infinite time to talk. If your child has en eating disorder, addiction to drugs, or a serious problem this isn’t the place to send them. Please hear me out, I loved the friends I made and the staff that really did care, and I loved the basketball team because it made me feel like a normal person again, but the program Diamond Ranch Academy is a place I will never send my own kids or recommend for anyone because of how many people I watched get worse.

My friend Hannah Cook committed suicide after a year of being home. another boy Glen Parrish just overdosed on drugs/alcohol. There was another girl I think her name was Brandi G, that committed suicide as well. Diamond Ranch Academy does not truly have the tools to fix your relationship with your children, you do.

Source:
6. Diamond Ranch Academy in Utah – United States (1000 places You don’t want to be as a teenager)

Sagewalk wilderness program testimony

The Sagewalk wilderness program operated around Bend in Oregon. They closed in 2009 after a boy lost his life in the program. The entire concept was dangerous according to the sheriff who investigated the death but not illegal, so none were convicted for the death. Years before Sagewalk was used in a reality survivor-like show called “Brat Camp” leaving parents to believe that the wilderness therapy concept was safe. It wasn’t. Unfortunately it took a death to prove that. Here is a testimony found on Fornits.

I don’t know how to really dispell the myths about Sagewalk being a “boot camp” and students being “tortured and abused” other than just describing how a typical day went for me. This is rather long so pop some popcorn or something…

Day starts off by counselors calling 5 minutes. This means that everyone has 5 minutes to be dressed, have their sleeping bags hung on a tree, grab their food bags, and be sitting around the firepit. If everyone does not have this done by 5 minutes, everything gets put back the way it was, then you do it again until every thing is completed in the 5 minute slot. After this, there is hygeine. This involves filling your cup with water and soap, taking your rag and washing your face, hands and feet. I believe 8 or 10 minutes was given for hygeine. You had to be checked off by a counselor. If not everyone was checked off by a counselor in the allotted time, everyone had to do it again, although it was fairly easy the second time around, since most everyone was already clean and didnt need to do additional scrubbing. Then came breakfast, usually 20 minute time limit. Breakfast consisted of usually cold oats, with water, powdered milk, and then if you rationed well, brown sugar and raisins. If a fire was going, campers had the option of heating their oats, although only a few did so (I preferred my oats cold). You were required to eat at least 2 cups of oats, and one quart of water, both checked off (one girl forgot to check off that she had drank her quart of water, was forced to drink another and promptly vomited next to me) After this, you needed to clean your cup, which involved taking making mud and scrubbing the inside of your cup with it and rinsing it out until it was spotless. If everyone did not have their food eaten and cups cleaned by time limit, then spices would not be available for later meals (you needed to make 3 time limits in a row in order to have spices). All food that was prepared is required to be eaten, regardless if you feel full or the food doesn’t taste good. Some people vomited because of this, including myself after using too much spice on my rice and lentils. After this, usually came some sort of planned activity, gathering firewood, some sort of group therapy, or when we were moved to a site in the Orinoco (?) Forest, day-hiking (food and water only, no packs) up mountains and through forests and what not (probably the most fun activity there, incredibly beautiful) although we couldn’t really do this at the high desert site and apparently, SW has moved back there where I spent my first 10 days or so. Gathering firewood was rather difficult in the high desert, since we were required by both SW and BLM policy to take only dead and down trees. Lunch was usually very light, just some granola and another quart of water. Very easy to make time limit, if there was one (sometimes we would stop hiking and sit and snack then continue). This meal wasn’t required, but was only taken away if the group was misbehaving (never taken away if we were hiking or going to hike). Afternoon activities were performed, sometimes our “homework”, coursework that focused on goals, aspirations, management skills, etc. not your typical math, science, english etc. or more firewood collecting, therapy, etc.

Dinner was usually at sunset or so (preceeded by hygeine again), since we could not really do much after dark anyways. Dinner was rice and lentils except for Wednesday nights and Thursday nights. Wednesday night, we were given dehydrated refried beans and tortillas, made absolutely amazing (well, in comparison to the rice and lentils) burritos and Thursday nights was Macaroni night, which if you still had some cheese (most was used during burrito night) could make mac and cheese. Even without cheese, however, just regular macaroni was much better tasting than the rice and lentils. Since Rice and Lentils take at least 20 minutes to cook on the fire, time limit was either 40 minutes or 60 minutes depending on behavior (longer time limit for better behavior). While food was cooking, we were required to write a page in our journals. We also had a moment of silence (controversial, i think) and this was also the time when most of the group therapy occurred, when counselors encouraged the campers to express greivances, whether it be with SW, the counselors themselves, other students, or just problems in general. Usually, this either allowed for compromise and conflict resolution, or sometimes flared tempers (some girl I remember believed in Creationism, which I was fine with, but then she started ripping on evolution, which I was not cool with). Food was then eaten, then cups cleaned, food bags put away and we were dismissed to bed. Although we did not have any concept of time of there other than what day it was, I could guess that we received at least 11-12 hours of sleep a night (7-8pm till 7-8am).

Perhaps the least fun activity, and the one with the most controversy, would be the hiking. This involved taking down camp, with a time limit, packing up, then hiking upwards of 8 miles. Taking down camp involved dismantling the shelter, usually 2 or so tarps tied up to trees with rope. Filling in the firepit, filling in the latrine, then rock and sticking it. Filling up the “reds” (small water jugs). Spilling excessive water from the reds would require you to lift a full “red” above your head 25 times yelling at the top of your lungs “I will not spill the red, this is for my safety (rep number)”. After the camp was taken down, next (still during time limit) was to pack our packs…usually involved rolling our gray mats (what we sit on around the campfire) and our tarps up, strapping to the back of the pack, then filling our packs with our sleeping bags, extra clothes and food bags. Packs usually weighed somewhere around 80 (supposively) pounds, depending on how full the food bag was. In addition, several were assigned to carry the full “reds” (probably between 10-20 lbs) in their hands, and someone with the empty whites and siphon hose. Hiking was what you made of it. I had undiagnosed diabetes, I weighed 115 (when I finally got diagnosed and started insulin, I spiked at just under 150 lbs, 35 lbs weight gain in about 3 months) and was chronically fatigued. My first hike, we need to scale a small rock face, basically about 100 ft of steps. I fell over a few times and threw up. I was reassured by my peers that this was normal, and the counselors would make us continue until we reached our destination, regardless of fatigue level. The counselors gave us a break after 1/2 mile after we finished the rock face climb. After I got some water in me, I felt much much better and we hiked another 5 miles or so, me only falling over once more due to a misstep. I was also taught early on in my program that the biggest key to hiking is packing your pack correctly, putting your heavy stuff on top and making sure the waist straps are above your hips. After this tip, hiking was fairly easy, with the only real problem being overall fatigue from high blood sugar (all food is high in carbs to provide energy, which was not good for me). After hiking, camp set-up, opposite of camp take-down with time-limit. If camp setup or takedown took longer than time limit, rules dictated that we were supposed to re-do it all over again (45 minutes worth of work) but many times, the counselors, if they saw genuine effort and hustle (or if problems out of camper control came to light) they were pretty lienent.

I’m positive I’ve forgotten many things, or certain details are incorrect, it has been 3 years since I attended. If you have any questions as to other stuff, feel free to post them here, or im usually on AIM/AOL at phawktard. Please, if you’re going to contact me on AIM, don’t abuse this. I’m more than willing to answer questions as long as they’re not of rhetorical nature…leave your criticism here on the board.

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