I was caged, beaten and warehoused by Republicans at a 'concentration camp for throwaway teens' in the 1980s

America is shocked by the Trump administration’s putting kids in cages, but such tactics —designed to create terror and modify behaviour — are nothing new. Republicans have been using it for decades. I know: I was a kid caged by Republicans in the 1980s. 
I don’t have to say I was “caged.” I could say I was “impounded” or “imprisoned.” To be new-razor precise, I’d choose the word “warehoused.” Because that’s where they stored us, the tens of thousands of teens whose parents didn’t want to deal with them anymore: in warehouses across the United States.
Our parents dropped us off, wrote a cheque and walked away. Like the immigrant children separated from their families at the U.S. border, we wouldn’t talk to our parents again for 10 months, a year — sometimes, depending on the kid, longer.
The warehouses were called Straight Inc., a “treatment” program for child drug addicts. This was strictly spin. If the founders were honest, they’d have called Straight what the ACLU did: “a concentration camp for throwaway teens”.
Most of us had barely smoked weed. Maybe we drank a beer once. To compel our parents to pay the monthly stipend, Straight had to make us admit that we were addicts. So they forced us to put negative spin on our own past behaviours. How did they do that? In a word, torture.
Once we were locked in the privacy of “the building,” our code for the warehouse, we were sexually assaulted (all of us were “strip-searched” and “belt-looped,” wherein another child put their hand in our pants, pulled the waistband up into our butt crack, and dragged us around, as standard; some of us were raped by our “oldcomers,” the kids whose houses we slept in). We were assaulted psychologically (“spit therapy” was used in “review,” where we were stood up in the seething mass of our peers, who then took turns spitting saliva and personalized vitriol into our faces).
We wore “humble clothes” (intentionally mismatched, uncomfortable and humiliating outfits into which we would bleed, crap, or pee when we weren’t allowed to use the bathroom, or when we were being punished with “T.P. therapy”: three squares of toilet paper, and not an inch more). 
We experienced this and much, much more until we “got honest with ourselves,” admitting to the group, and our parents, that the few tokes of weed we’d tried, or the single beer we’d drank, or the magic marker we had sniffed, meant that we were “addicted to drugs and alcohol.”
Straight Inc. was founded by Trump Victory co-chair and major Republican fundraiser Mel Sembler, a man who started out selling dresses, moved on to selling shopping malls, and then, as a pal of first lady Nancy Reagan, helped create the Just Say No! campaign, thereby fostering the 1980s anti-drug hysteria. From there he moved on to selling the disappearance of “troubled” teens by labelling them as drug addicts. 
The Tampa Bay Times recently asked Mel Sembler’s wife, Betty, for her opinion on Trump’s “sometimes crude and frequent false statements.” She replied that Trump is “an unconventional politician…whose style is to approach problems with a hammer he’s not afraid to use.”
Kirstjen Nielsen struggles to deny migrant children were kept in dog-like cages
The use of a hammer to solve human problems is an apt metaphor for Straight. Kids who refused to “admit to their addiction,” or to “motivate,” or to sing preschool songs recast into Straight-praise songs, were slammed onto the floor by five of the peers, and “sat on,” or wrestled into a five-point restraint. If these “misbehavours” tried to jerk away from their peers’ grasp, they were carried into a small, windowless “intake room.” We couldn’t see what happened in there, but we could hear the thumps. We could hear the screams. When the former misbehaver emerged, they were crumpled, limping, bloody, and bruised, but obedient. They put their arms up to motivate; they sang the Straight praise songs. They admitted to their addiction.
When 60 Minutes did an episode on Straight, they spoke to Fred Collins, who won a $220,000 lawsuit against Straight for false imprisonment in 1984. Collins described the experience of a boy who was forcibly restrained by other teens — a boy who was “sat on” — saying, “They had four or five people sitting on him. And they broke his ribs… he complained that his ribs were broken and they said shut up, and he wasn’t even allowed to go to the hospital. They ended up healing the wrong way.”
Mel and Betty Sembler consider Straight “their greatest achievement.” Republican movers and shakers, in turn, consider the Semblers one of the party’s greatest assets. “It’s almost hard to put on a Richter scale what both Mel and Betty have meant to Republican politics,” says veteran Republican fundraiser Ann Herberger in The Tampa Bay Times.
Right-wing fear and anger is created with words, with the creation of an “other” who doesn’t adhere to their social agenda. In an article titled “We Had to Torture the Children in Order to Save Them,” American Conservative describes Straight’s strategy for demonising teenagers. “The teens are consistently characterized as liars and manipulators, and their own parents are urged to reflexively disbelieve anything they say.” Trump uses the same tactic with immigrants, deeming them bad hombres, drug dealers, and rapists; saying there are “crimes of all kinds coming through our Southern border” and zeroing in on his own word choice: “People hate the word invasion, but that’s what it is.”
Once voters pulled the lever for Trump, and once parents signed their kids into Straight, they became complicit in the process. They now have a cemented, subconscious motive to believe the spin: to believe we need to build that wall. To believe Straight’s “bad kid” propaganda. Challenging those ideas would mean challenging their own judgement and accepting blame for helping create a disastrous reality. It is far more palatable to roar louder along with the angry, fearful crowd.
In that 60 Minutes episode I mentioned, Straight’s executive director was questioned about kids restraining kids. The reporter asked, “The kids who say they have suffered injuries as a result of that, they’re lying?”
The director replied, “They are giving you their perspective of what happened. If they suffered an injury, it was the result of a fight they probably…that they started!”
Sembler’s Straight Inc. was eventually shut down due to abuse lawsuits and government investigations. His Trump Victory bio on Wikipedia makes no mention of Straight, describing him as a shopping mall developer, and his anti-drug organization is now called The Drug Free America Foundation.

There is no mention of Straight Inc. on the foundation’s website, but if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll find a “Follow Us on Twitter” button with some cryptic words above it: “Key required even if secret is empty.” If you want to see it and decipher that spin, act fast. Because the truth has a way of disappearing.
I was caged, beaten and warehoused by Republicans at a 'concentration camp for throwaway teens' in the 1980s I was caged, beaten and warehoused by Republicans at a 'concentration camp for throwaway teens' in the 1980s Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 04:33 Rating: 5

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