GAO Report on Teen Abuse at Boot Camps

Update: The GAO report is here (pdf). Committee Chairman Miller's opening statement at today's hearing is here.


The GAO has completed its report on abuse at teen "boot camps." It's not a pretty picture.

The first federal inquiry into boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled teens cataloged 1,619 incidents of abuse in 33 states in 2005, a congressional investigation out today reveals.

The study, by the Government Accountability Office, also looked at a sample of 10 deaths since 1990 and found untrained staff, inadequate food or reckless operations were factors. In half of those cases, the teens died of dehydration or heat exhaustion, the GAO says.

A few of the problems: A lack of regulations for the programs and no central clearinghouse for reporting abuse complaints. A Congressional hearing on "Cases of Child Neglect and Abuse at Private Residential Treatment Facilities" is being held this morning by the House Committee on Education and Labor.


Teens have died in ten of the programs. Five of them are still operating. One sickening example:

Roberto Reyes, 15, died of complications from a spider bite in November 2004 at Thayer Learning Center in Missouri, which describes itself as "a military based, Christian boarding school." ...The staff tied a 20-pound sandbag around his neck when he was too sick to exercise, the GAO said.

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    Elite-Hunters (none / 0) (#1)
    by Sumner on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 07:52:50 PM EST
    I saw the movie "Hostel" (2005)

    I realized there is a continuum on a scale of malevolence from ambivalence or merely apathetic, all the way up to those that would pay $50,000 to cut someone up alive with a chainsaw, like in the movie.

    I fear many of our cops and guards and judges fall more towards the malevolent end of that scale. Politicians most certainly seem to.

    Thanks for reporting on this topic.

    I remember once-upon-a-time South Dakota Governor Janklow's constant crusade for ever-toughening-up the boot camps on kids, and the resulting wrongful death of 14-year-old Gina Score, who died as a direct result of mistreatment at a Janklow-created boot camp.

    "Girls held in the State Training School report that they have been strip-searched by male guards, sprayed with pepper spray while naked, and handcuffed spread-eagled to their beds".

    Sound exactly like the America you know? Or remember the bootcamp that dragged the girl behind the van?

    GAO has recently reported on an FCC in bed with business and now on custodial human rights abuses of children. This GAO is starting to look encouraging, like they might start doing their job.

    It is most revealing about our government when we observe how it treats those that are entirely and completely and utterly in its control, as to how it would treat all of the rest of us, were it merely given the chance.

    Has the GAO heard of Mel Sembler? (none / 0) (#2)
    by SeeEmDee on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 08:16:35 PM EST
    If you want to know how torture could be so easily adopted by this Administration, all you need do is consider that Mel Sembler' so-called 'drug treatment facilities' (known by various names, but most often as STRAIGHT, Inc.) have abused thousands of children al la Abu Ghraib style humiliation (like forcing a teen to be roped into a chair and sit in her own urine and feces for 12 hours while other teens and a 'facilitator' screamed epithets at her) and worse, such as beatings. Some of those so abused had no drug problems, but their (mush-brained) parents were persuaded that they did and allowed their children to be 'inducted' into what amounted to torture camps.

    Sembler has been amply rewarded for his efforts at financially supporting Republicans, particularly the Bush Family, and has received Ambassador positions to both Australia and Italy, and is presently working for Mitt Romney's campaign (remember Mr. Dog Carrier who made his dog endure a grueling ride atop a station wagon without break so the dog fouled itself and the carrier it was in?).

    Will the GAO say something about Mr. Sembler's monstrous treatment of American children?? I doubt it very much; partisan politics have infected the civil service to such a degree it will take years if not decades to return it to some sense of neutrality. In the meantime, a known child torturer is working to elect someone given to inhumane treatment of animals. Cruelty seems to be a common denominator for this bunch...