REPORT TO FRIENDS--December 10, 1999

One day in 1992, under the relentless Nevada desert sun, Paul Choy was being hassled, harassed and taunted in order, purportedly, to build his character and straighten him out. Finally, in reckless desperation, he tried to defend himself. That was just the signal his tormentors, called "coaches," needed to put their "restraint techniques" to the test. They were ready, waiting and thorough. After all, you can't allow dangerous, uncontrollable young delinquents to be mouthing off and threatening people, can you? When they say they can't breathe--they all say that--they're probably faking it. They're mostly a pack of liars and manipulators, and, if you know your business, you don't relax your hold until they calm down and start cooperating. They aren't in boot camp to be mollycoddled, ya know, but to learn discipline, right? That was the scene, more or less, at a place prophetically called Rite of Passage. The last I heard, Paul Choy had indeed become very cooperative and was celebrating his 16th birthday in a hospital bed, brain dead and on life support. His was the first such case to come to my attention.

I've lost count of the number of children killed by suffocation in custodial settings. Yes, I said "suffocation." I know the preferred euphemism here is "restraint." But out of respect for the victims and respect for the English language, I'll stick with the other word.

After the suffocation, there was the usual mad scramble to rationalize the event. This explanation emerged: Paul was too frail a boy for that particular camp. He didn't have the "athletic ability." He should have been sent somewhere more suitable. His "accident" was the result of an unfortunate, but innocent, bureaucratic oversight. The authorities miscalculated when they sent a puny, little kid to a camp designed for tough young thugs who are inured to being knocked around--ones who would benefit from being marched and exercised to exhaustion and could safely bounce back from almost any amount of mistreatment. The camp staff were only doing their job. The camp management was only following time-tested procedures. One boot camp apologist characterized Paul's demise as part of "the window of loss," as though he were an egg in a large shipment of eggs to market. One must expect some breakage, particularly among the ones with prior defects. It's the price of doing business. Presumably, the "window of loss" is a small window, and the few who fall through it don't detract from the larger picture.

If one is prepared to accept such a rationalization, how then is one to integrate into this already sad picture the possibility that Paul had been raped not long before he was killed? Is sexual assault also covered by the window-of-loss theory? Those attending him in the hospital discovered recent trauma consistent with forced anal penetration. Granted, life at Rite of Passage was not intended to be a bed of roses, but at least it should have been safe in bed, considering that the boys' sleeping quarters were shared by their no-nonsense coaches.

Whenever the subject of youths dying violently in custodial settings breaks in the news, which is becoming more frequent as larger numbers of them are funneled into that industry, there is a call for better training of staff. One rarely hears the recommendation for more stringent vetting of applicants for staff positions. That would be unduly accusatory. The mere suggestion that there are people employed in such places who shouldn't be there, who are unfit to be entrusted with the power of life and death over the powerless, would shift the focus of attention onto politically dangerous territory. It could be the first step toward opening a debate over the very essence of youth boot camps and the like, their purpose and their efficacy. It is far safer to leave an engine that is running (and running well) alone. Tinker with peripherals, if you must, such as better training for current staff, but don't challenge the fundamentals. Surely no one can reasonably object to better training. Every sensible employee welcomes additional training to help improve job skills. And just think of the exciting new employment opportunities for those who will be the trainers. Everybody wins. Hopefully, those who are unsuited to youth work will be weeded out, or will gracefully weed themselves out during the training process. This is wishful thinking. In fact, there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that sadists, bullies, pedophiles or would-be child-killers are that easily diverted or that they can benefit from in-service training, except, perhaps, to improve their ability to do their dirty work undetected. It is interesting to note that developers of so-called restraint procedures prescribe frequent periodic "refresher" courses for staff. Does the science of restraint change that often? Or are its users prone to forgetfulness, particularly during the thralldom of execution?

Offshore facilities serving the "troubled youth" market typically operate in places where child abuse prevention laws are virtually nonexistent and recruit staff from among the locals. How thoroughly job applicants' qualifications to work in educational/therapeutic settings are assessed is anybody's guess. Employers are the sole arbiters of that standard. "Out of sight, out of mind," seems to be their unspoken motto. The financial balance sheets of these operations would change dramatically were they required to improve their criteria for hiring.

Stateside facilities typically set up in remote, inaccessible places where a laissez faire approach to child abuse prevention prevails and where they can easily isolate inmates from all outside contact, even from contact with their families. Isolation, they say, is essential to the success of the program. That's true, but not in the way they intend. It is hard to imagine a more favorable environment for custodial institutions staffed by people with few, if any, marketable peacetime skills. And one can easily anticipate how the owners would balk at having their operations opened to outside scrutiny or if they were required to meet minimum standards for the respect of their charges' human rights.

The purported benefits to those who pass through the camps remain entirely the stuff of myth and wishful thinking. Some studies have been done, and to date no one has been able to document that boot camp graduates fare better for the experience. As for the self-serving anecdotal "evidence" touted by the industry's enthusiasts and shareholders, it must set every skeptic's bullshit alarm bells ringing. My reading of the evidence suggests that the camps' clientele are nothing more than grist for a very profitable mill. The old-style reform school, with push-ups substituted for whipping, and phony "tough love" jargon substituted for the blunt cruelties of the original model, is enjoying a heady revival these days. It's a seller's market and business is booming. There's just one minor nuisance: the deaths.

Michelle Sutton, dead at age 15, Summit Quest
Kristen Chase, dead at age 16, Challenger
Paul Choy, dead at age 16, Rite of Passage
Aaron Bacon, dead at age 16, Northstar
Dawnne Takeuchi, dead at age 18, VisionQuest
Lorenzo Johnson, dead at age 17, Arizona Boys Ranch
Carlos Ruiz, dead at age 13, VisionQuest
Mario Cano, dead at age 16, VisionQuest
John Vincent Garrison, dead at age 18, VisionQuest
Bernard Reefer, dead, VisionQuest
Robert Zimmerman, dead, VisionQuest
Charles Lucas, dead, VisionQuest
James Lamb, dead, VisionQuest
Tammy Edmiston, dead, VisionQuest
Leon Anger, dead, VisionQuest
Jamie Young, dead at age 13, Ramsey Canyon
John Avila, dead, Rocky Mountain Academy
Danny Lewis, dead at age 16, VisionQuest
Nicholas Contreras, dead at age 16, Arizona Boys Ranch
Edith Campos, dead at age 15, Desert Hills
Matt Toppi, dead at age 17, Robert Land Academy
Chirs Brown, dead at age 16, Robert Land Academy
Tristan Sovern, dead at age 16, Charter Behavioral Health System
Robert Rollins, dead at age 12, Devereaux School
Andrew McClain, dead at age 11, Elmcrest Psychiatric Hospital
...and counting.
Readers interested in more on this subject can click on Boot Camp for Kids: Torturing Teenagers for Fun and Profit. Also, see items on The Newsroom tagged with .


I've chosen as the title for this collection of recent hostile mail the same phrase used by Francisco de Goya, the great Spanish painter and printmaker, as the title for one of the most remarkable etchings in his series Los Caprichos. That image by Goya always emerges before my mind's eye whenever I receive a certain kind of correspondence. Click on El sueño de la razon produce monstruos before reading the letters that follow, and I think you'll understand why I believe Goya's monsters set the tone perfectly for this material.

[The following letters are shown uncorrected and in full except for writers' identities which have been withheld.]

December 7, 1999

All the time and energy you have put into such a trivial thing. I pray that God gives you more things to do with your time. I pray that you one day may understand as I do "spare the rod and spoil the child".

November 16, 1999

Having discovered your website, I couldn't let it go without reproof.

There is a balance, and not a polarization (as would argue), in discipline to be realized. No sociey can or will remain whole without discipline. If we stand for a balanced discipline in society, and the family unit, (anarchy would result), we must find guidelines to work from. Since our moral fiber is rooted in the Bible (e.g., murder is illegal, stealing is illegal), we should adhere to the commandments listed therein.

For a balanced perspective, your website should include:

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training of the Lord." -Ephesians 6:4

"He who spare the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." -Proverbs 13:24

"Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod he will not die." -Proverbs 23:13

Spanking (not hitting or slapping) is a needed form of discipline, and is something that, given a disobedient act, should be one of the tools of reproof parents use with their children. Make the discipline match the offense.

November 10, 1999

i am a 42 year old person and i was spanked and even hit with a belt when i deserved it. yes there are times when a good scolding would have been a better way, but that was not to happen. i have grown up to be a respected person by my peers and own my own business. i have 3 children which i have spanked within reason. but for you to say no spanking........ there are alone over 5,000,000 cases of children with DISCIPLINE problems in the USA. everything from hitting their parents to killing them. they are not all from abused homes. i have to ask you this in general has anyone of your peers ever in their lives been spanked, come on things in our lives are not getting better because you have this group against spanking get real. life is getting tough for all of us because some children do need to be spanked. Take Oklahoma bombing-rich kid never spanked. the killings in altanta-not from abused parents what your answer to that ..........MAYBE THEY NEEDED A SPANKING OR TWO........ THANK YOU FOR YOUR STUPIDNESS OF THE THINGS TO CHANGE THE WORLD NOT..............GET A CLUE ON LIFE... SOMETIMES ITS NOT ALL BAD
November 6, 1999
As a school Administrator from time to time I do believe that the paddle has a place in the classroom. Most of the students that I talk to would rather get the punishment over with. I always give my students the choice if it is the first offense. They will take the 3-5 swats most of the time. If I have a student that continues to be in trouble for the same thing I will paddle that student and also put them in our in-school suspension program. Most of the students male or female that I paddle will only come in my office one time a year. My reputation for paddling is you only want it one time.
November 5, 1999:
Well maybe I'm not to shocked, I almost expect the mentality of society will become more liberal in these last days, as Bible Prophecy has spoken of for thousands of years. You people probably in your own deception really think you are doing good by coming against spanking. The Bible says if you don't use the rod you hate your child. So if the shoe fits wear it, you people are hating your children. If I were a betting man I would say that none of you out there are true born again Christians, but are humanist, cultist, atheist, etc. But certainly not Christian, now I do agree there have been some abusive people out there when it comes to spanking children, but you cannot say all spankings are bad because of some people violent people. You can take anything out of context. My wife for instance went to the local High School a few years ago to see a teacher, she was walking up some stairs, then a couple of male students showed up wearing baggy pants, and told my wife she was walking up the wrong way on the stairs, the way they said it was disrespectful, as they were walking away they loudly said STUPID BITCH! This really made my wife feel bad, this is an example of our kids today, who have been created by a society of people like you with your evil psychology, and you anti spanking campaign. This is why these kids go into schools and kill everybody in site, these are the monsters that were created by a liberal society, not by spankings, the finger is pointed back in your direction. I firmly believe there is a conspiracy to break down the family unit, which will help break down our society and will eventually lead to one world government, the tribulation period, and your leader will be the anti-christ. So be it, I know who my God is and who to Trust for my Salvation.
October 29, 1999:
The word of God says "spare the rod, spoil the child " of course this being an anti-Christian web site you do not accept that truth. The truth is our society has been going downhill since the 60's when your ugly lie began to become popular. By the way, there is a huge difference between spanking and beating. When you spank, you lovingly tell your child why they are being punished and remind them that actions have consequences. Sometimes they are painful. Get real!
October 26, 1999
October 8, 1999
I am sorry to see that you have been decieved and that the worlds thinking has changed the way you view the Bible. If you do not hold that the entire Bible is true and that the Lord is soverign then you have lost much of the basis of christianity. If God is soverign then He has control over what was included in the Bible. He has not left us to wonder what is true and what His will is for our lives and our children. He has given it to us in His Word. Spanking can be done in love and it will accomplish its purpose. Whom the Lord loves He will chaisen. God punishes us not to hurt us but to teach us, when he does have to punish us it is going to hurt! I thank God that He sent His son to die for us to save us from the wrath of God, and that He punishes me to keep me in His path.
September 17, 1999
Don't tell me how to raise my kid's, or I'll find you, and beat YOUR ass.
Readers interested in examining a large collection of antagonistic mail I've received over a period of about 20 years (but by no means all of it) can click on CRITICAL AND HOSTILE MAIL.


The Massachusetts Supreme Court missed a golden opportunity to nudge the U.S. a little closer to joining the civilized world with regard to protecting children from parental violence. It seemed to the Court that the abuse didn't rise to the level of "abuse" according to the Social Services Department's own definition. Child floggers in the state of Massachusetts can breathe easy for the time being. Leather belts are still in. Just don't get too carried away. You wouldn't want some trouble-making bureaucrat from the DSS to haul your brat over to the court house to bleed on the judges' carpet. That could ruin things for everybody. On The Newsroom, read Without exception, kids shouldn't be hit, by Anne Driscoll, Boston Globe, November 28, 1999, Massachusetts Court Tosses Spanking Charge, AP, The New York Times, November 17, 1999 , Text of Massachusetts Supreme Court decision in DONALD R. COBBLE, JR. v. COMMISSIONER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, and Letter to the Editor of the Boston Herald by Laurie Couture, November 18, 1999.

NOTICE TO STUDENTS & EDUCATORS   Please let us know if people see the following message or the equivalent flash on the monitor when they attempt to log onto Project NoSpank from their school's computers: "Access to '' not authorized."
RESEARCHER'S QUERY   Does anyone know where James Ingraham and Roosevelt Adams (of Ingraham v. Wright--Supreme Court infamy) are today? Respond to Amy Lansburg.
HELP NEEDED   I'd like to remind our friends who have been thinking about sending a donation that now is a perfect time. PTAVE's postage expenditure alone far exceeds donations from those who have requested and received printed materials, and I am constantly scrambling to figure out ways to cover costs. I am thrilled that so many health care professionals and educators are displaying our NO SPANKING ZONE poster and using our booklets, but deeply disappointed that so few of them remember to send even a nominal donation. On December 3, I received a request from the Child Abuse Prevention Office of the Los Angeles Unified School District for 5,000 copies of Plain Talk about Spanking. (They are the second largest school district in the U.S., serving 700,000 children.) This is a wonderful opportunity to protect many children and enlighten many parents, but we simply can't afford to supply that quantity of material gratis. If you have any ideas about how we can give them their booklets, or if you want to help specifically with this project, call me at (925) 831-1661. Have a safe and pleasant holiday.
Please include me in Project NoSpank's mailings.
Please remove me from Project NoSpank's mailings.

Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir.
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE)

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