Saturday, July 21, 2012

B is for Boot Camps

Everybody's heard of juvenile detention centers. That's where bad kids go when they commit crimes. Because the law sentenced them. Perfectly legal, perfectly appropriate.
But most people have never heard of boot camps. Correctional facilities, that's the euphemistic, colorful brochure name for them.
Not usually government owned. Not usually government sentenced. These kids are there because their parents are paying by the month for them to be there. Reasons vary. These camps are known for taking "defiant" or "troubled" teenagers, but they're extremely welcoming in who they'll accept. Drug use? Failing in school? ADHD? Sure.
A smoker needs a nicotine patch. A struggling student needs a tutor or simply some help from their parents. A kid with ADHD needs tactics to calm down and focus or perhaps some medication.
Every boot camp is different, but they share a lot of similarities. Common practices include exercise in extreme heat or cold, beatings, food deprivation, having no contact with friends, parents, or the outside world. I've heard of several who punish teenagers who step out of line by forcing them to lie face down on a concrete floor with their hands at their sides for several days at a time.
All these kids can do is pray and wait until they're released. For short-term programs, that may be two months. For others, it will be their eighteenth birthday.
Not all of them will make it out. I've heard of seven deaths in Utah, my home state. Apparently they have over 200
I wanted to post photos of them so you'd see these people and think of humans, not hollow names or the general concept of a troubled teenager, the general concept of dying young. But because of legal copyright issues I am not allowed to do that.
Click on this link.
I can provide pictures of Utah

Michelle Sutton was fifteen. She liked to draw and play the piano. Michelle wanted to be a presechool teacher when she grew up. She voluntarily enrolled in Summit Quest's 63-day wilderness program because of self esteem problems. It cost $13,900.
She died seven days later on a hike with supervising counselors and four other teenagers, including her best friend, Andrea Dawes. Andrea later named her firstborn daughter Michelle.
As they hiked through the desert, Michelle complained that she was exhausted and nauseous. They gave her water and she vomited most of it up.
The supervisors, warned of potential manipulation, decided she was faking it to get out of the hike. She died while they looked on. They put the death down to drug overdose, until tests revealed she had no drugs in her system. Then they called it dehydration.
That was 1990.

In 1994, Aaron Bacon's parents enrolled him in another Utah boot camp.
He was funny, smart, and wrote prizes for poetry he wrote himself. Then he started smoking marijuana and ditching class. A gang jumped him in the school's parking lot. He claimed he didn't know them.
Without telling Aaron, his parents paid $13,900 to send him to North Star Expeditions and an extra $775 to have him escorted.
Aaron woke up to find two large men entering his bedroom. Lance Jagger and Don Brukhart.
"You're coming with me," Lance said, "If I detect any resistance, I'll assume you're trying to get away, and I'll take the appropriate action. Do I make myself clear?"
A little over a month later, his parents flew in to see their son's body in the morgue. If it weren't for a scar above his right eye he'd had since childhood, his mother wouldn't have been able to recognize him.
"His legs were like toothpicks," she said. "His hip bones-they stuck way out, and his ribs-he looked like a concentration camp victim. There were bruises from the tips of his toes to the top of his head, open sores up and down the inside of his thighs."
North Star Expeditions claimed Aaron's death resulted from issues with his small intestine.
Aaron and Michelle weren't the only ones. For Utah alone, I've heard of Kirsten Chase, Ian August, Katherine Lank, and Elisa Santry.
I was shocked, to say the least, to hear of all this horribleness going on in my home state. Your supposed to believe that "bad things" happen in the past. And if they're still going on, they're going on in far away, uncivilized regions of the world. And if it's your country, it's the fault of stupid, cruel people in other regions or stupid, cruel politicians.
Yes, politicians make the best scapegoats.
But I'm willing to bet most politicians don't know because, believe it or not, politicians are usually people. And most people don't know. Do you, sitting indoors on your comfy office swivel chair, or viewing this on your phone or iPod, did you know?
I won't be blogging for the next week. That is because tomorrow I am leaving on a road trip across most of the state of Utah, through scenery like this:

And I'll be sick of interesting rock formations by the time I get there. We're going to Lake Powell. I won't have internet for the next week, but I'll probably gain ideas while I'm gone so I can come back and get started. I intend to finish my alphabet parade and then cover boot camps, starting with more Utah.
International readers, don't dismiss this as something that only happens in America. Because Americans are dismissing it as something that only happens in your country, and then nobody does anything.
I intend on doing something.
What will you do?

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