Some Alleged Abuses
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Alleged abuses at Straight-Springfield Virginia are shown on this page in chronological order. The reader should also see the following links for additional information on alleged abuses there:
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Client #90068 reports being Bomb Squaded by seven people lead by staff member G. S. and given spit therapy. His arm was grabbed when he tried to wipe the spit off his face, but later was allowed to use a dry towel to wipe it off. He reported that in 6/90 L. W. had been Bomb Squaded on the loading dock and looked devastated when he returned.(1) Client #90007 reports being made to stand in a corner with a lamp between his legs for not writing MIs; receiving spit therapy by five guys and counselor M. K.--that each got drinks of water before spitting. He reports of one kid crying because he had to go to the bathroom so bad during a rap and they wouldn't let him. He reported on "suicide watches".(2) To other sources alleges he was sexually molested, fled Straight and lived in a drainage ditch. Client #90022 reported being restrained by clients and receiving 'spit therapy'.(3) A 17 year-old client reported spit dried on his checks but he was not allowed to dry it off until he said he was a drug addict. He escaped but was caught on an interstate, beaten in the face and bitten on his back. A Virginia State trooper intervened.(4)
A Virginia Dept. Mental Health site inspection on Feb 14 - 15, 1990 found 12 of 12 clients interviewed reported having observed clients restraining other clients; that kids were being restrained face down with their arms held up behind their heads; that clients reported being ordered to restrain other clients; that clients were restrained for inappropriate things like not "motivating" which the state had already cited Straight for as degrading to human rights. One client told of a kid being restrained with one client holding his head, two holding each arm, and two each leg for not taking his hands out of his pockets! Client #5 reported being restrained (taken to the floor) four times in two days. He reported on the Bomb Squad with a staff person and five oldcomers holding a client up against the wall while they yelled and spit in the client's face.
A 19 year-old told a reporter that he was restrained and his finger was pulled back until he admitted he used drugs. He was put on bread and water and once he was punched so hard in his face that some blood vessels broke in his eye requiring him to see a doctor.(5) C. H. (then 21) alleges while led around by the seat of his pants he was repeatedly slammed into a wall. Fighting back he was restrained by several oldcomers. During one incident his left thumb was forcefully bent backward until it almost physically touched his wrist requiring medical attention once he left Straight. He was not allowed to use the bathroom while at the facility. He attempted to withdraw himself from host home and was restrained, tackled, slammed to the ground and beaten by 6 or 7 oldcomers. Police were called to stop the beating and police acknowledged he was being held against his will. As a result of Mr. H.'s allegations and that of client #89002, state licensing officials investigated and got written testimony from 4 people who witnessed the restraint at the M-K home. The department cited Straight for forcing clients to "motivate" which they ruled as degrading to human dignity, for not assuring that grievances would be heard by the necessary staff, for not allowing clients contact with family or outside world, for "spotlight therapy", for refusing clients bathroom privileges causing some to mess in their pants, and for restraining clients for "talking behind backs".
Colin Caroll alleges he was fed apple and water for his main meal; he was alternately allowed sleep 15 minutes, then awakened 15 minutes until he got his required 3 hours; sometimes punishment was "spot light" therapy where you had to stare at a bright light.(6) Brian DeCunzo alleges he was forced to admit to drug usage he had not done; his mother claims that they made kids admit to incest that never occurred.(7) John Doe Va-1 reports being struck in the nose on 1/28/89 by Chris Roberts and taken to the emergency room at Fairfax Hospital.(8) A 13 year-old male client alleges he was sexually abused by a 19 year-old oldcomer who had previously abused two other newcomers in his care, yet was allowed to continue in the program. Fairfax, Va. attorney Sandra Havrilak, represented this boy and several other Straight clients.
On 8-18-89 client #89037 reported to Fairfax, Va Detective Wayne S. Promisel that paraprofessionals had given oldcomers permission to deprive newcomers of food in host homes; that they had been told to allow only an apple and water or crackers and water if the client was not complying with the rules; that upper phasors picked kids up and dropped them on the floor, and then other clients jumped on top of them once on the floor. He told of James Thompson being tackled so hard in the parking lot that the front fender of a car was bent. He stated that Tom Salver Moser got a broken jaw. He related how one kid had his skull cracked by a phasor when staff had encouraged a client to provoke an incident. He reported that fifth phasors could deny bathroom privileges during Group and at host homes.
Virginia Dept. Mental Health letter of Sept 6 , 1989 from Joni Baldwin cited Straight for violation of human rights by refusing contact with one's family. Dept Mental Health site inspections Jan 24/ 27 & Feb 2/6 1989 found that eight clients had been deprived of toilet facilities by upper phasors. Straight was cited for using clients to supervise and restrain other clients, for using inappropriate punishment for not writing MIs such as deprivation of nutritionally balanced meals, for spot light therapy-sleep deprivation, for not allowing clients access to their parents, for strip searching clients in the presence of peers. Dept Mental Health, letter on 6-13, 1989 to Straight noted that clients restrain other clients by lip pushing, thumb bending, and forcible arm bending. Straight was advised that clients acting as volunteers do not have qualifications appropriate to render physical restraints. Judge Donald Crounse, a Fairfax Virginia judge, had to file a Writ of Habeas Corpus in order to visit his own son in Straight (1982 or 1983).
Sixteen year-old client 89101 reported escaping on 2-6-89. He reported that one client was stripped nude in the loading dock area where he was yelled at by clients and staff while he was still nude; that he was fed an apple and warm water as punishment for not writing his MIs; that G. P., a staff member, and a fifth phasor laid on his shins and grinded their knees into his shins during a restraint; that upper phasors would yell in your face and spit in your face while yelling; that he was once carried into the shower with all his clothes on and then made to sit in group with wet clothes on after falling asleep once; that he was called names like "trash" and "wart on my ass"; that during one restraint he had been punched four times and had his head slammed onto the floor and that restraints lasted up to six hours, that his mouth was held during restraints; that oldcomers would not let clients go to the bathroom resulting in some clients messing in their pants; that he was pulled by his hair by S. T.; that newcomers could not read the Bible; that oldcomers had to watch newcomers take showers.(9)
Footnotes Straight DC Alleged Abuses:
1. Letter from Judy Flynn, Va. Department of Social Services, on July 31, 1990 to Joni Baldwin Va. Dept of Mental Health.
2. Va. Dept of Mental Health ltr, dtd January 23, 1990. Report taken 1-23-90..
3. Va. Dept Mental Health took report on 3-6-90.
4. Washington Post, 8-8-91, section C.
5. Washington Post, 8-8-91, section C.
6. Colin's parents are Bill and Rosemary Caroll from Maryland.
7. Mother Claire DeCunzo, A.K.A. Claire DeCunzo Martin, Ellicott City, Md., reported on film by Drug Policy, c. 1992, of forced sexual confessions.
8. Reported to Anita Shelton of Va Mental. Client had been admitted to Straight on 2/8/88.
9. Va Dept Mental Health report received on 3-6-89. In an interview on 3-14-89 Mr. G. P. admitted that 89010 had been restrained frequently but for anger and striking out at kids, Mr. G. P. and Mr. H. did admit that degrading speech does "slip out".