“Therapeutic” Boot Camps for Teens Still Out of Control


The Atlantic investigates the brutal “training” and “therapy” regimes and chronic abuses still going on at psychological and physical boot camps for “troubled teens” around the country, despite years of exposes in the news media, documentaries, and books, and government investigations. Renewed efforts to introduce regulations over the immensely profitable industry continue to fail repeatedly due to ties between the companies that run the camps and many politicians, the magazine reports.

“I tried to run, and they arrested me,” one girl trapped at a camp tells the Atlantic. “I was listening in on my mom’s conversation over the phone, and I heard that these people were coming to get me. I ran, so they put cuffs on me and put me in the car. I was crying my eyes out. I almost had a panic attack. This place is hell … I didn’t do that many bad things that I should get sent away to a place like this.”

“[These programs] call themselves wilderness therapy or come up with their own categories so that they can avoid the criteria that would apply to, for example, a mental health treatment facility,” University of California psychologist Nicki Bush tells the Atlantic.

“Some politicians have taken their concerns regarding unregulated adolescent therapeutic programs to Congress,” reports the Atlantic. “In May 2013, Congressman George Miller, a Democrat from California, reintroduced legislation that aimed to better protect adolescents in such facilities from abuse and provide easily accessible information for parents on the safety records of the programs. The bill has repeatedly failed in the House.”

“What we’re trying to do is set minimum standards that would then be instituted at the state level,” Miller tells the Atlantic. “For example, they would not be able to deny children things like water, food, clothing, shelter and medical care. We would like to have professional staff who are trained in the care of these children and have experience, and that’s often not the case.”

When Wilderness Boot Camps Take Tough Love Too Far
(The Atlantic, August 12, 2014)