Monday, September 19, 2011

Longtime's journey

This story was originally written on the message board called the Fornits Home for Wayward Webfora. All rights and credits goes to the author known as Longtime:

The Author was living independently and was offically a runaway. However he tried to get a work permit so he could get a decent life. At some point he was arrested and then a transport firm got involved. Here is his story from that point:

The jail made three attempts to put me on a plane to Utah, all of which I thwarted. Round 1: Induce asthma attack. Round 2: Make scene while handcuffed in front of the gate. Round 3: Flat out refuse to get on the plane.

I knew I was going somewhere awful. In my time at San Marcos I heard just how bad it could get. Anything on a ranch was a danger zone, just one step above international reform camps. I knew about beatings, sexual assault, physical torture, isolation, and the occasional deaths. I was prepared to make transporting me there as difficult as possible.

The escorts came, a Mormon husband and wife team in a rental car. I hated them immediately. I sat in the back watching my whole world disappear into the rearview mirror. I would never read my journals again, my clothes would be donated or sold and by the time I returned a year later most of my friends would be dead.

A period of my life wiped off the planet in one fell swoop.

I taunted the escorts. I asked where the other wives were and told them I was a practicing Satanist. The man’s face flushed red and he called me names before informing me 90% of the world was Christian. I laughed and asked if he’d ever heard of India. Or the Middle East. Or China. Or Northern Africa. I found some perverse delight in intellectually dominating this backwoods middle aged man. After he snapped and yelled at me I slumped into the backseat with my feet against the window.

I began tapping with my tiptoes and asked, “What if I broke this?”

“Is that your plan?”

I shrugged. “Maybe.”

The car swerved to the side of the road, locks went up and into the back burst a husky escort, his frame rushing towards me. Behind my head his wife clicked the door lock down.

I landed one backhand across his face as he came at me but it was too much to fend off. He landed on top with a thud, using his forearm to choke me into submission. Tears welled from my eyes. I tried to scream but all that came out were mangled rasps. The more I thrashed against him the harder he weighed on me.

I finally went limp. He pinned me there for a moment longer before getting off of me and back into the driver’s seat.

“Not such a smartass now, are ya?”

I touched my tender throat and wiped the tears off my face. No words came out for him. I simply sat in shock for a little while. But I am nothing if not determined and soon came up with another monkey wrench.

I had to pee and, no, it couldn’t wait. They were rightfully suspicious of me but their aversion to a urine stained rental car proved stronger than their misgivings. When we pulled into the rest area both escorts turned to me and said I had to follow everything they told me to do.

They never told me I couldn’t mouth the words “HELP ME” to a stranger as we walked back to the car. Our little group looked suspicious to say the least: a tiny teenager sporting a buzzed head with two long locks in front being flanked on either side by a redneck couple in Wranglers.

As soon as he asked what was going on, the female escort tightened her grip on my arm and started dragging me towards the car.

I wasn’t going without a fight. I began screaming: “THEY’RE TAKING ME AGAINST MY WILL! HELP ME! SOMEONE HELP ME!” Everyone in the rest area snapped to attention as I was shoved into the backseat still screaming. I pounded and tried to get out but to no avail.

No-one listens to a teenager. The people in the rest area talked to the escort, accepted whatever he said and let us go. And even though someone called the cops, the officer who pulled us over also let them continue on their way with me despite that fact the escort had no card identifying himself as a legal child kidnapper.

I began to give up hope. No-one would help me. I had no rights.

By the time we reached Idaho I felt defeated. I lay in the backseat while they had a tire replaced, facedown, arms folded across my chest, barefoot (they took my shoes), softly sobbing and saying goodbye to myself while Rolling Stone’s “Ruby Tuesday” crooned from the radio. Apparently I looked like I was tied up and we had another visit from the police. Of course, nothing happened.

Despite my protests, despite my struggle, we pulled up to Sorenson’s Ranch School late that night.

The rest of Longtime's story can be read by using the link below

Sorenson's Ranch School 2000-2001, a thread on the Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora

Friday, August 12, 2011

Traveling to North Carolina

The following statement was taken from a message board belonging to a radiostation

The days I was kidnapped by Chicagoan

.....The next morning I was woken up when two strangers walked into my room. They were older, in their early 50s probobly. One was both overweight and muscular while the other was short and lean. I would joke to kids I met on my journey that this was so one could chase me and the other could restrain me, as I've never looked anemic and have always been stronger than most.

I gave the pair a tired hello, rolling over in my bed, angry that these electricians had barged into my room when I was so tired still. The larger man went over to where my shoes were and began to unlace them. The smaller man told me to get up and brush my teeth. He told me we were going. I asked where we were going. I was told I would find out when I arrived.

Although at this point, as clear as the consequences of all our actions are with reflection, I should have known something was amiss, I had remembered my mother telling me I should go to a summer camp in order to get out more, in order to enjoy life more. I thought I was being taken to a camp by friends of my parents friends, or someone else close to the family who I did not know. I followed their directions. When I put my pants on after I had finished brushing my teeth, the larger man grabbed onto the empty belt buckle of my jeans and began to guide me out of the house. I clumsily shuffled down the stairs with my shoe lace-less sneakers to the back door, which, in our house, is near a pushdoor to the kitchen. I wanted to say goodbye to my two dogs, as I thought I would not see them until the end of the summer. When I began to move to push open the door to the kitchen, where my dogs usually are, begging for food and relaxing on the cold tile, I was yanked back into place and led out the back door. I was led out the garage to a minivan I did not recognize. I was forcefully 'assisted' into the back of the minivan and the door was slammed shut.

At this point the two men, who's names I did not know and to this day I do not know, told me I was going to O'Hare Itl. Airport. I asked where we were flying to and I was told North Carolina. I began to panick a bit at this point. I realized I had no control in what was occuring. I felt flustered by the use of force barring me from bidding my dogs and my parents farewell for the summer. Although this is tough to admit to because I love to view myself as a rugged individualist unwilling to allow others to defeat me on a personal intellectual or emotional level, at this point I began to cry. My crying was not out of complaint or pain, but rather it stemmed from the fear of my circumstances. I was locked in a minivan with strangers who had led me there by force, and now I was on my way to an international airport.

As we drove, the trip to O'Hare being about 45 min from my house, the two men talked about the night they had spent in Chicago before. They laughed about the time they'd had at Uno's, a famous Chicago Pizzaria I was familair with, and they showered praise on the city's night life.

When we arrived at the airport I shuffled along with the two men, not willing to subject myself to the force I had experienced earlier when trying to stray from the preordained course. I had a backpack with me that my parents had packed and the two men had given to me. In it was my favorite book, "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque. (Off topic I STRONGLY recommend this book. My initial juvinile misreading of the book led to my pro war patriotism, and my rereadings of the book led to my anti-war pacifism) I began to read while we waited for the flight from Chicago O'Hare to Ashville Airport in North Carolina. We boarded the flight and the plane took off. I was seated in the middle seat of a three seat row, in between the two strangers.

About half way through the flight I was handed a folded sheet of printer paper. It turned out to be a letter, in the style of speech I had learned to associate with my father. The letter told me about how sorry my mother and father were to have had to resort to handing me over to strangers to take me to North Carolina, but it was clear that my lifestyle required some intervention. I immediatly thought of the discussion of summer camps I'd had with my mother. I felt calmed. "I'm going to summer camp." I told myself, "It wont be that bad. At worst it will be boring." As I began to realize that the hand had been taken off of the chess piece, that the plan was in play, I began to calm myself, forcing myself to come to terms with what I thought would merely be the loss of my summer.

If you have come this far without clicking away I applaud you. Up to now most of this has been just description of the initial trauma of an experience that would last for a long time to come.....

He later returned home, but when he fell into a disagreement with his parents, he was transported once more. Here is the story with his own words.

.....After the end of the school year at Catholic school, I told my parents I refused to reattend a cathlolic school the next year. Within a week of this announcement I was woken up early by the exact two strangers my story begins with. The horror and addrenaline that rushed through me is inexplicable. I hopped up out of the bedroom where my experience began and tried to flee. I was knocked down at the door by the larger man, he hopped on my back, pushed my face into the carpet and contorted my wrist as to disallow me to move in any way without an increase in the pain I already felt. I was told I could either go back to my "school" in Utah "willingly" or go to a worse place, horror stories of which I had heard from children at the location I was sent to for 6 months in Utah. The large man, no longer a stranger, then showed me a pair of handcuffs and pepper spray. I decided to return to, as we called it, Jail for Kids, willingly.....

The boarding school in question is not named. Like so many it is located in Utah. Below is the Fornits Wiki Datasheet on SUWS, which is the name of the wilderness program.

Fornits Datasheet on SUWS

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Traveling to La Verkin, Utah

The author known as Xandir gave permission to have her story published on the webpage Reddit. All rights belong to the original author.

On May 10th of 2007 at around 2:30 in the morning two strangers barged into my bedroom. I started screaming and crying, as in my mind I was sure that these two strangers had broken into my house and were going to abduct me, rape me, kill me, or in some way harm me.

They immediately told me that if I did not shut up that they would handcuff me. I was not being in any way violent or threatening. I was reacting in fear for my life by being vocal and hoping that someone would come to help. I had no idea what was going on. I stopped screaming, still in fear for my life. They started going through my closet digging out clothes as I was only in a night gown. They still had not explained what was going on. I asked, frightened, what the wanted from me, trying to see if I could in some way appease them and get them to leave. They then explained that they were going to take me to a school.

It took me a second to understand what they meant by this, as this was an extremely bizarre way to introduce a child to a new school. It then occurred to me that this was what my mother had arranged for my brother several years ago when she had him shipped away to Cross Creek. The two strangers were from Teen Escort Service, a for-profit company that transports teenagers, usually by force, to WWASP (World Wide Association of Specialty Programs) facilities.

I was extremely upset and cried the entire trip, but I obeyed all of their orders. Even though I was being cooperative they said it was their policy to put a belt around the bust of the child and hold the belt so that there would be no chance of attempting to run. It was so humiliating to be led around like a fucking dog around the airport. It was also extremely uncomfortable to have this strange older male putting his hand so close to my breast. I never understood how any of this was legal but definitely knew that none of it was ethical. To this day I feel extremely angered, disturbed, and violated by this entire experience. In addition to this they “forgot” all of the psychiatric medication I had been on at my house. It’s not that I am for psychiatric meds, but it certainly did not feel healthy.

The rest of her story can be read on the homepage of Reddit. Please use the link below.

The orignal statement on Reddit
Datasheet about the treatment facility on Fornits Wiki

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Traveling to Jamaica

This story was originally written on a webpage called, which sadly is not online anymore properly because the boarding school closed sometime in 2009. All rights and credits goes to the author, who is known to the former webmaster of

It was late, at least 3 in the morning. Everyone was still awake and I heard them talking about people arriving soon. With that I looked out my window to see a taxi pulling into the parking lot, leaving its mark in the uniformly white snow.¨I watched it as it slowly crept by each building, only stopping when it found its target. Both passenger doors opened up and two large men stepped out. They surveyed the building for a second, glanced at each other, and started walking towards my building and out of site. My heart started racing as I awaited the now inevitable. I would have to play along with whatever I was dealt with. I could handle it, its just rehab right? I walked out to the living room where my family seemed to realize the two men were on their way up. My mom couldn’t look at me, seemingly on the verge of tears. Then the knock came. A flurry of nervous activity erupted, as nobody seemed to know how to act at the moment.

My grandfather opened the door, and the men asked him where I was. Two very large Jamaican men, representing themselves as private detectives from Miami, came straight over to me. I was put in handcuffs, and they asked my family if they wanted to say their goodbyes. My brother came up to me again and gave me a hug, as did my father. My mother was sobbing at this point, and kept telling me she didn’t know they were going to handcuff me. I reassured her, contrary to all my feelings surrounding the day; a son does not look at his crying mother with any satisfaction, even if he was cursing her just moments before. At least I didn’t think so then.

The goodbyes were said, and the men grabbed me by both arms and escorted me to the waiting taxi. My father, brother and grandfather followed. I was put into the back seat with the larger of the two men. I glanced over as the driver shifted into drive. The image I saw has never left my mind. My grandfather in his trench coat and fedora stood in the middle of my father and brother. They were side by side staring at the cab, the snow gently easing its way down flake by flake. I focused on a single snowflake, drifting from above the streetlamp, meandering down through the orange hue, and finally coming to rest at my grandfather’s feet; no more an individual, just a single color spread as far as I could see.

We arrived at the airport. I had learned, during the trip, that I was being sent to a program located in Jamaica and would probably be there for a couple weeks if I “worked” the program. I was taken aback by the location, but two weeks didn’t seem too bad at all. A trip to Jamaica, I was sure this was going to be interesting. The handcuffs did concern me, though I brushed it off as a precautionary measure. And besides, what a badass I must have looked like getting escorted through airports in handcuffs. I even gave some nasty glances to older ladies staring curiously at the blond hair blue eyed boy sandwiched between two large Jamaican men.

First we flew to Atlanta and then onto Montego Bay, Jamaica. As we got off the plane, Jamaican women lined up in the aisle that led to the lobby, singing native songs and shaking everything they had for the tourists who were at the heart of the country’s economy. I almost felt like I was cheating, not intending to spend a dime there, and yet getting a free show anyway. Oh well, it wasn’t my choice, but my mood was elevated by the women, and the temperature too. It was a hundred degree difference from my city, and in February that made me pretty damn happy.

We were met by a driver from Tranquility Bay, the program I was headed to. We exchanged pleasantries, and in my naivety I thought this could actually be fun. Everything so far indicated that it could be alright. Well everything except the handcuffs. But I knew my mom, and she would never put me in harms way; there was nothing to worry about.

The drive to Tranquility Bay was amazing. We drove through the heart of Jamaica’s jungles and hills. People lined the roads in certain parts, barbequing and smoking what I could have sworn were large spliffs. The driver instilled visions of Grace Kelly’s final minutes as he darted around slow moving trucks while turning a corner or speeding 50 mph on a road no larger than a car and a half. It was exhilarating though; knowing that despite the normalcy of the grass, the familiarity of the sky, and the common traits of the people here compared to people I knew at home, I was actually in the middle of Jamaica’s jungles. A place you heard stoners idolize, a Rastafarian hideaway, the heart of the Caribbean.

The rest of the story is found here: Tranquility Bay Experience (The blog "Tales from the Black School")

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

WANT YOUR KID TO DISAPPEAR? (Legal Affairs - price willing article)

This article was published in the magazine Legal Affair. All rights belong to the original author Nadya Labi.


For $1,800, former Atlanta police officer Rick Strawn will make that problem child someone else's problem. He even makes house calls.

Louis Boussard has hired a professional to abduct his son.

On a late evening in early March, Rick Strawn of Strawn Support Services flew from Atlanta to Tampa, Fla. He rented a Ford Taurus with child-safety locks from Avis and set off for the coastal town of St. Petersburg with his assistant, Joshua Dalton, and me. An hour later, we were driving down a street filled with one-story homes. We slowed down outside a house with an American flag hanging from the eaves and a Jaguar and a Grand Cherokee in the semicircular driveway. It was 1:55 a.m., which meant we were early. Strawn parked in a nearby lot to kill time. He went over the plan, emphasizing, "We've got to leave by 3:15."

Flicking on the lights to look for Boussard's number, Strawn dialed his cellphone. "Um, Louis. Hi. Does your house have a circle driveway with a Jag in it?" he said. "If you're ready, we'll come on in. Is he asleep?" The connection broke up. Moments later, Strawn's phone rang. "Much better, yes. No, don't wake him up. We're going to talk to you for about an hour," he said. "I'm going to help you through all that. Okay. Bye-bye."

We drove back to the house at a crawl and got out of the car, easing the doors shut. Both men wore khaki pants and dark blue shirts embossed with a globe logo and the website address of Strawn's company. Strawn walked up the stone pathway, peered in the window of the front door, and lightly rapped. No one answered. "Maybe he said go around the back," Strawn said. "Wait here for a second." He began to walk toward the back of the house when a light came on inside.

A Haitian-American man in his late 40s opened the front door and beckoned us inside. Boussard (his name and the names of his wife and son have been changed) guided us to a dining-room table covered by a white tablecloth. It held a white vase filled with artificial pink flowers and two fat red candles in wrought iron stands. The matching white cushions of the dining-room chairs were covered in plastic. Boussard sat at the head of the table, flanked by his wife, Sandra. In spite of the late hour, they were impeccably dressed—he wore a beige linen suit and she wore a scoop-necked sweater set off by a gold necklace and bracelets. The couple's formality, however, soon gave way to the urgency of the task at hand. Two rooms away on the other side of the kitchen, their 16-year-old son, Louis, Jr., lay asleep in his bedroom.

The Boussards had hired Strawn Support Services to transport Louis, Jr. to Casa by the Sea, a school near Ensenada, Mexico that seeks to "modify" the behavior of troublemaking teens. Casa takes kids who parents have decided are out of control, usually because the teens are talking back, getting poor grades, staying out late, drinking, having sex too soon, or taking drugs.

Louis, Jr.'s parents had not told him that he was going to Mexico—nor how he would be taken there. They thought he would run if he knew what was about to happen. Now they kept glancing in the direction of the kitchen. "Louis is very suspicious," Sandra whispered about her son as her husband began a hurried account of the teen's misbehavior.

The troubles had begun a year earlier when Louis, Jr. was in 10th grade. His grades fell from A's and B's to C's and below. He stopped playing basketball with his father. He started talking back when his mother wouldn't let him go out to clubs with his friends. He broke his curfew, which was 7:30 p.m. during the week and 9 p.m. on the weekends. Often he left the house by his bedroom window. The Boussards thought Louis, Jr. might be smoking pot. Then all of a sudden, his report cards improved dramatically. "I thought, something is not right," said Boussard, squinting at the memory. He discovered a bad report card in his son's backpack, and Louis admitted that he had faked the good ones.

The Boussards enrolled their son in counseling; the counselor said he was doing fine. They sent him to boot camp for a day, where he got anger-management and drug counseling. He behaved better for about a week. At around the same time, Louis was told that he had to repeat 10th grade. His parents transferred him to a vocational program in carpentry at his high school with the hope that he would find the schoolwork easier. Louis hated it.

Strawn listened to this litany of frustrations, nodding sympathetically. Then, he took a breath and started the spiel that he has honed over the course of six years and some 300 transports. "Behavior is as addictive as any drug or alcohol," he told the Boussards. Like all troubled kids, Louis, Jr. needed to recover from his bad behavior. "The way I look at it," Strawn continued, "any good recovery has three components: breaking down old habits, building a strong foundation, and building new habits." But Boussard pére was not paying attention. He was still steamed about the fake report cards. "I said 'Something is not right,' " he repeated.

There was a slight noise, and he and his wife jumped.

"Do we need to have Josh go outside?" Strawn asked, referring to his assistant.

"He's very suspicious," Sandra whispered, glancing over her shoulder toward her son's room.

Strawn went outside to make sure that Louis had not climbed out of his bedroom window. The teen seemed to be asleep, but Strawn left Dalton outside to stand guard. On the air conditioner outside the window was a bottle of cologne, which Strawn guessed Louis used to freshen up before his nights out.

Strawn squeaked back into his chair and rushed through his usual script. Now was not the moment to dwell on his own recovery from alcoholism, or to lead the prayer circle that he often suggests before a trip. He ran through what his clients should expect when he entered Louis's room. Strawn advised them to introduce him to Louis, to give their son a hug if Louis let them, and then to walk away. "The hardest thing I ask a parent to do is to turn around and walk out," he said. "Don't come back, no matter what you see or hear."

The mother and father nodded, shifting in their seats. Boussard got a black overnight bag from a closet and handed it to Strawn, along with a check for $1,800. In return, Strawn asked him to sign a notarized power-of-attorney that authorized his company to take "any act or action" on the parents' behalf during the transport to Casa. The document also promised that the couple would not sue for any injuries caused by "reasonable restraint." Strawn warned them that he would take Louis away in handcuffs. The father signed the release, then seemed to have a moment of buyer's remorse. He said he'd been obsessively reading the catalogue for Casa. "All of a sudden, the intensity just takes off," Boussard said about sending his son away. "We feel like we failed."

"Let me help you out there," Strawn reassured him. "I go to families all the time with four or five siblings. Only one of them decided to take this path. If it had anything to do with your parenting skills . . . " His voice trailed off. "It isn't because of that."

"We don't want to see him go to prison or jail," said Boussard, rubbing his hands over his face again and again. "Will he understand what we're trying to do for him?"

Boussard got up from the table with a sigh. The rest of us followed close behind. He walked into the kitchen and took a dinner knife out of a drawer, explaining that he would use it to pry open his son's locked door. Sliding the knife into the crack between the door and the wall, he prepared to enter.

RICK STRAWN IS AN EX-COP WHO STARTED HIS COMPANY in 1988 to help police officers find off-duty work guarding construction sites. Ten years later, he was asked by a member of his United Methodist church to transport the churchgoer's son to Tranquility Bay in Jamaica. The school is run by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs, a company headquartered in Utah that owns eight schools in the United States and abroad, including Louis, Jr.'s destination.

Strawn said no to that first inquiry because he knew the boy involved. But he had stumbled upon what he now believes is his calling. In his first year of business, he escorted eight teens to behavior modification schools. Since then, his company has transported more than 700 kids between the ages of 8 and 17. Strawn has gone on about half of the trips himself; on the others he has sent agents. Either way, the company generally uses two escorts for the part of a trip that's on the road. Girls are escorted by coed teams; in the early years, Strawn relied on his wife, mother, or older daughter to help him on these trips. Now his wife, Susan, runs the company's office from the family home in the Atlanta suburb of Suwanee. After every trip, she sends the client a card with the message: "Just a note to say thank you for allowing us to assist your family."

Balding and slightly soft in the gut, Strawn is a reassuring 52-year-old. He speaks with a light drawl—he was born in Lubbock, Tex.—and he seems to mean it when he drops endearments like "hon." Strawn's easy manner has won over many parents and school administrators. "He's one of the few escorts who takes the time and effort to talk to the kids," said Karina Zurita, the admissions coordinator at Casa. "He lets kids know that they'll be in good hands."

But if Strawn is decent and likable, he will also go to almost any length to get his charges to do what their parents want. He has chased kids down. He has dragged teens to the car in their underwear. He has used a choke hold, learned as a cop, to render a few others unconscious. He has taken suicidal kids from hospital treatment to reform school.

Most of Strawn's clients are genuinely concerned about their children's welfare. They believe their children are at risk and want to save them. But these parents also revel in forcing their kids to sit up, pay attention, and do what they're told. Glenda Spaulding, who took out four loans to send her 14-year-old daughter to a WWASP school in South Carolina last November, had three words for Strawn before he took the girl away: "Go get her."

Strawn's willingness to use force differentiates him from other escorts. While no one tracks the teen transport industry, those in the business estimate that more than 20 companies nationwide take kids to behavior modification schools, residential treatment centers, and boot camps. Some of the bigger companies are more selective than Strawn about what they'll do. The Center for Safe Youth in Atlanta, for example, doesn't use restraints to force a child to go anywhere. And the center won't transport kids to WWASP schools because educational consultants with whom the company works don't recommend them. Its owner, John Villines, would like to create a professional association to oversee the transport industry. The standards he proposes are rudimentary: no agents with felony convictions or histories of irresponsible driving or drug and alcohol abuse. But they set the bar higher than almost any state does.

Instead of operating by rules, the escort industry runs on trust—the trust that parents won't put their kids in harm's way. But there is no trust between parents and kids in the households that Strawn enters. It has broken down so completely that parents think it's okay, and even courageous, to send a stranger into their child's bedroom. Strawn makes his living from that judgment and he is willing to mislead a child for what he sees as the greater goal of reform.

Once parents put their kids at Strawn's mercy, for a short time he is in loco parentis—in the place of the parent—in the fullest sense of the term. He has the authority to tell a kid what to do and to punish him for failing to obey. At the same time, he is the only person left to cling to when a kid is on the threshold of a scary, unknown world.

Three years ago, Strawn escorted Valerie Ann Heron, a 17-year-old from Montgomery, Ala., to Tranquility Bay. The school is the most hardcore in the WWASP system, the one to which students are sent when they repeatedly cause trouble at other schools. The trip went smoothly, according to Heron's mother, Nell Orange, and Strawn played his role well. "He made her feel comfortable with him. She trusted him. He talked to her about what to expect, where she was going," Orange said. "She gave him a hug when she left him."

The day after that hug, Valerie rushed out of a second-floor classroom and jumped to her death off a 35-foot-high balcony.

The suicide didn't faze Strawn. He didn't ask himself whether he should have taken Valerie to Tranquility Bay and left her there, or whether she needed more help and tenderness than the tough-love school provides. He doesn't even acknowledge that she might have been upset or unhinged enough to kill herself. "We had a really good trip. We were laughing and cutting it up," Strawn recalled. "Was she suicidal? Till the day I die, I won't believe that." Without any evidence, Strawn says that Valerie must have jumped in an effort to run away or in hopes of hurting herself so that she would be sent home. She landed on her head instead of her feet, he thinks, because one foot got caught in the balcony. "My feeling is that the majority of kids who talk about suicide, they're not suicidal," Strawn said. "What they are is manipulative."

LOUIS, JR. SAT STRAIGHT UP IN HIS BED. He was surrounded by three strangers and his parents. His chest was bare, and white acne medicine stood out against the dark skin of his forehead. He grabbed his wire-rimmed glasses from the bedside table and blinked a few times. The basketball posters of Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant were still there. His childhood teddy bear sat in a low-slung armchair by the door.

"Do you have some underwear on?" Louis's father said. "They're here to help us. They're here to take you to a school."

Louis shook his head to clear it.

"The only thing we want you to know is that we love you very much," Boussard continued. He and his wife stepped forward to hug Louis, but the gesture was forced and none of them seemed to want the contact.

"Where am I going? When am I coming home?"

Louis's parents walked out the door.

Strawn broke the silence that followed their exit. He launched into what he calls "the scenario," a three-minute script that he instructs his employees to memorize and deliver, right down to a required chuckle. "Personally, I feel like I do it better than anyone else because I designed it," Strawn had explained earlier. The scenario is the key to a smooth escort, he believes. It gives teens time to cool off, weigh their options, and realize that their best course of action is to follow orders.

"I want you to know that we are not here to be bad guys and bullies. We are not here to lecture you, or right-or-wrong you to death," Strawn told Louis. "We are here to get you safely to the school and we are going to do that. But we'll absolutely give you as much respect as you allow us to give you."

Louis stared at him and drummed his leg against the bed.

"Quite frankly, cuffs do not embarrass us," Strawn continued. "But if it goes there, it will be 100 percent your choice." He concluded with the question that the scenario is designed to set up. "I have an important question for you. If you walk out of here cuffed, do you understand that it's 100 percent your choice?"

"Uh-huh," Louis said. He looked around the room. His mind was working but coming up empty. He asked if he could grab his clothes. The answer was no. Instead he was allowed to direct Dalton to hand him a gray t-shirt, a black-and-gray Fubu jersey, and black mesh gym shorts.

"Am I coming home today?" Louis was trying not to cry. He blinked rapidly behind the smudged lenses of his glasses.

"I will not lie to you," Strawn hedged. "I might not answer your questions . . . "

"So when am I coming home?"

"I mean no disrespect, but I learned a long time ago that I don't want to chase you," Strawn plowed on, ignoring Louis's question. He explained that he would handcuff Louis to Dalton. "And son, if you can drag this ugly sucker far and fast enough to get away, well, God bless you, you weren't meant to go." Strawn gave the scripted chuckle.

Louis was still trying to buy time and find a way out. "Can I brush my teeth?" he asked.

Strawn shook his head, and cuffed Louis to Dalton. Strawn wrote his script to give his charges the illusion of control, but he often cuffs the kids, especially boys, no matter what they say. He hustled Louis to the car, guiding him into the back seat along with Dalton, to whom he was still cuffed. Taking the wheel, Strawn explained to his passenger that he would stop talking—"I consider it disrespectful to talk to you in the rearview mirror," he said—until he reached the airport.

At the mention of an airport, Louis said, "Oh, God."

When we arrived at the Tampa airport half an hour later, Strawn took off Louis's handcuffs. As we walked to catch our connecting flight to Atlanta, Dalton grabbed the waistband of the boy's shorts, which rode low on his hips and might have fallen off if Dalton hadn't held fast. The teen rolled his eyes and cracked a piece of gum that Dalton had given him. He was auditioning for the part of bad boy, but the role didn't fit. He was too quick to say "Thank you" and too eager to talk. He had spent the past year bottling those impulses around his parents and chafing at the limits they had set for him. His abduction struck him as the latest outrage. "I don't listen to them, I don't like what they say," he said. "I don't listen to the curfew. I'm not doing that. It's too early."

When his parents bore down, Louis pushed back. He hung out with a crowd they didn't like and he drank and smoked pot. "I came home high once. My father said, 'I know you're high,' " Louis remembered. "Then I went to a one-day boot camp last August. You exercise and they talk to you. I came home high again and he sent me to this juvenile rehab thing that lasted two and a half days. It was pointless."

THERE COMES A POINT IN JUST ABOUT EVERY ONE OF STRAWN'S TRANSPORTS, whether he's soothing a nervous parent or bonding with an upset teen, when he will mention his six-month stint in 1997 at a halfway house for alcoholics. "Seven years ago, I entered recovery. My drug of choice was alcohol. You know far more about where you're going than I knew about myself," he told the 14-year-old girl he escorted last November to a WWASP school in South Carolina. "In my mind, I was kicking and screaming. But the loveliest day of my life was when my wife and mom dropped me off at that halfway house. I can tell you now that it's the best thing that ever happened to me."

That's Strawn's version of the story, which starts a generation earlier. Strawn joined the Atlanta police force in 1973. He'd previously been in sales, but he knew that being a cop would suit him better. "In sales, the customer is always right," he explained. "But as a cop, I'm always right." Strawn relished that authority. "It seems at times he has to have the last word," one of his supervisors noted in an evaluation early in his police career. That's a good thing in a cop, and the reviews Strawn received during this period were uniformly favorable.

Strawn worked many different beats, including patrol, drug enforcement, and homicide. He earned the respect of his colleagues for calming down troublemakers. "They have to think that you might be the toughest guy," he said of the suspects he arrested. "I was able to talk people into doing what we wanted them to do."

Strawn was losing control of his own life, however. He was drinking heavily and in 1992 he was briefly suspended for disappearing from work without explanation. Strawn said that he stayed sober on the job, but the smell of alcohol seeped from his pores. His colleagues complained. Internal Affairs investigated. Strawn tested clean.

Four years earlier, Strawn had married Susan Kyzer, a single mother with a young daughter. Strawn didn't get along with the girl. She had attention-deficit disorder and the Ritalin she took wore off by the time she got home from school. "Her behavior was like a needle point with Rick," Susan said. "He was of the view that kids should be seen but not heard, and this kid was always heard."

In 1996, the stepdaughter told a counselor that Strawn had molested her two years earlier, when she was 12. She'd just gotten home from a school football game, and she was still wearing her green-and-white cheerleader's outfit. She fell asleep on the living-room floor while watching TV with her stepfather. She said that she woke to the feel of something hard against her vagina and ran out of the room. Strawn was arrested for molestation. During the police investigation, he claimed that he'd fallen asleep after drinking, and in his dreams had confused his stepdaughter with his wife. But Susan told the investigators that just after the incident, Strawn had told her that " 'it was just a weak moment.' . . . He got turned on by her laying there with a short skirt on and all, and lay down beside her and unzipped his pants against her." Strawn grew depressed and began taking medication. He also admitted to detectives that a year earlier he had fondled the breasts of his niece on two separate occasions, when she was 12 or 13.

The Atlanta police department suspended him for several months. But Strawn's stepdaughter recanted her accusation, leaving prosecutors little choice but to drop the molestation charge. Strawn was taken out of the field, however, and assigned to do desk work. He was no longer the go-to officer. "I was being tolerated," he said. "And for someone with my personality, being tolerated is enough to make you want to get drunk."

One night in January 1997, Strawn went home drunk. After arguing with Susan, he said he was going to shoot himself and he got his .38 revolver out of the garage. "I've had all I can take," he told Susan, his stepdaughter, and the couple's 8-year-old son, Jared. But his threat was, to use his word, manipulation. He fired into the air and left. When he returned home later that evening, he passed out.

The next day, Susan confronted Strawn about his alcoholism, as she had many times in the past. His stepdaughter chimed in that she had snapped a picture of Strawn in his stupor the previous night so that he could see what he'd looked like drunk. Strawn wanted to destroy the roll of film but Susan and her daughter wouldn't let him, because it included a photo of the family cat, which had since died. A struggle ensued, and Strawn kicked the girl in the groin. He then grabbed his wife by the throat, choking her while his stepdaughter called 911.

Strawn left the house and drove to a nearby park, where he continued drinking. Susan and her daughter found him there. Susan tried to calm her husband down. Her daughter called the police. Strawn was arrested and charged with family violence, reckless conduct, and four counts of simple battery—misdemeanor charges that in Georgia together carry a maximum sentence of six years. Less than a month later, he was arrested again when he was found drunk and nearly passed out in his car. He avoided jail by pleading guilty to reckless conduct and a DUI charge.

Strawn likes to say that his wife made him go to the Hickey House Recovery Community. But a judge sent him there, as a condition of his probation. He spent six months at the halfway house while his family stayed away. Strawn hadn't prayed for some time, but he started going to a small church nearby. The defensive stance that he'd adopted slipped away. "Things started loosening up," Strawn said. He felt closer to God. When he got home, Strawn set to work on mending his family. While he was drinking, Susan had considered leaving him. Jared had withdrawn into video games. Now Strawn reached out to them, and they responded. Jared gave his father a cloth bracelet stenciled with the letters WWJD, for "What Would Jesus Do?" Strawn never takes it off.

The Atlanta police department was not as forgiving. In May 1998, it determined that Strawn had "brought discredit" on himself as a police officer, on 11 different counts. His superiors decided to fire him. Strawn opted to retire instead. He left the day before he was due to lose his job after 25 years on the force.

Strawn doesn't try to reconcile his past and his present, perhaps because he is afraid to find that traces of his old self remain. It is safer for him to credit God as the way he "got from there to here." The story of redemption that Strawn spins persuades parents who don't know where to turn that they can rely on him. Strawn was lost, just like the kids he escorts, and it is both his reward and his punishment to tell how he was found. "Working with these kids is like working a 12-step," he said before a recent transport. "Behavior is as addictive as any drugs or alcohol. I plant the seed of recovery."

But Strawn knows that if he is to be trusted to plant that seed, there is no room in his history for criminal lapses of judgment. I spent hours talking to Strawn, and he never mentioned the accusations involving his stepdaughter and niece. Instead he told me about a 15-year-old girl who was apparently discredited when she insinuated that he'd molested her during a 26-hour drive from Indianapolis to a WWASP school in Montana. Strawn said that an assistant was with him and the girl for the entire transport, and that the assistant backed Strawn up when he said he'd done nothing wrong. The school believed them. "That was God watching over me," Strawn said. Otherwise, he continued, "I would not be working in this profession. The cloud of suspicion would have been there." As for his stepdaughter, when I asked Strawn about her accusation, he said that she'd made up the charge to get him help for his alcoholism. She is now 21 and, along with Strawn's niece, works as an escort for Strawn Support Services. But she will not team up with her stepfather.

"WE'VE GOT SOMETHING DIFFERENT HERE," Strawn told the ticketing agent at the checkout counter of Delta Airlines. "We've got someone here we're escorting—not a prisoner, but he doesn't want to go with us." Louis sat with Dalton off to the side, rummaging through the overnight bag that his parents had packed for him. The agent didn't pause. "That's fine," he said with a smile.

Strawn won't board a plane with a kid who puts up too much of a fight—hat's why he ended up on that 26-hour drive. But when escorts do fly with protesting kids, airport officials rarely ask questions. Amanda Krassin was taken by plane from Washington to Oregon when she was 16. The escorts, who were from the California company Guiding Hands, asked that she be detained in an airport security area and handcuffed her on the plane. "Everyone ignored me at the airport," Krassin recalled. "I think they just thought I was a prisoner."

On the way to the gate for our flight to Atlanta, Strawn skipped a long line by flashing an auxiliary Coast Guard badge. (He's a member of the group's volunteer squad.) Dalton took Louis to the bathroom. The assistant, who is 25, is fairly new to the job. But Strawn likes to show off Dalton to clients because he attended a WWASP school in Western Samoa called Paradise Cove. The school shut down in 1998 after a State Department investigation into what it determined to be "credible allegations" of abuse, but Strawn doesn't mention that.

"I'm going to make two suggestions," he told Louis when the teen emerged from the bathroom. "First, try to have an open mind. I know it's hard to have an open mind when two ugly guys come and take you from your bedroom at night to a school that you don't want to be at. Second, you've got to be gut-level honest with yourself. The bad part of that is it's a 100 percent inside job."

The world according to Strawn is based on choices and consequences. The world according to WWASP is designed to reinforce the same principle. Students enter Casa by the Sea at the first of six levels. To advance, they have to earn points through good behavior and schoolwork. Until they reach level three, which takes an average of three months, they can communicate with the outside world only through letters to their parents, which the school monitors. After that, they can talk on the phone to their parents but no one else.

Casa costs nearly $30,000 for a year—as much as a year's tuition at Harvard—but offers no traditional academic instruction. Instead the schoolwork is self-paced; the students sit at tables with a workbook and take a test on a section when they decide they're ready. They can retake the same test as many times as necessary to achieve an 80 percent passing grade. According to the Casa parent handbook, the school does not ensure that "the student will even receive any credits" or that the teachers who monitor the study sessions will have U.S. credentials. The school does not track how many of its students go on to high school or college. "You're not going to have a teacher riding your back," Dalton told Louis. "It's all independent study. I just read the module, and did the test. I finished class in a week. That's how easy it is."

Students spend more time studying themselves than any other subject. They write daily reflections in response to self-help tapes and videos such as Tony Robbins's Personal Power, You Can Choose, and Price Tag of Sex. They answer questions like "What feelings/emotions did I experience today and how did I choose to respond?"

Students also attend, and eventually staff, self-help seminars. The entry-level seminar, called Discovery, encourages participants to "learn to interrupt unconscious mental and emotional cycles which tend to sabotage results." Kelly Lauritsen participated in Discovery at Casa in 2000 and said she was encouraged to hit the walls with rolled towels to release her anger. The price of tuition includes versions of these seminars for parents. Like Oprah on speed, sessions run nonstop from morning until midnight. Many parents and kids say they benefit from the self-analysis. "I didn't realize that I had so much anger inside," the 14-year-old girl whom Strawn transported in November wrote to her mother.

WWASP also pays for Strawn and his employees to attend the seminars, and Strawn has done Discovery. He enrolled in the seminar so that he could better sell parents on hiring him, but its talk-until-you're-cured approach forced him to confront buried wounds, such as his father's death a decade earlier. "God had a reason to put me there and it had nothing to do with the business," he said of the experience.

Strawn told Louis that the hardest thing about Casa would be abiding by the school's intricate system of discipline. "It's not the big rules that get you. It's all the little rules," Strawn said. Casa docks students, according to its handbook, for telling "war stories" about inappropriate experiences, for being unkind to each other, and for making "negative statements about the School, the staff, the country, or other students."

"There's a whole page of rules," said Shannon Eierman, who attended Casa last year. "That page is divided into sections of categories, into different codes, and a million subcategories. You could be there forever and the next day and learn a new rule."

Students at Casa who commit "Category 5 infractions" can be punished with an "intervention," for example, which is defined as being left alone in a room. Students say that the punishment can last for weeks, though Casa insists that the maximum penalty is three days. "I had to sit with crossed legs in a closet for three days," said Kaori Gutierrez, who left Casa in 2001. Interventions may be used to punish out-of-control behavior, drug use, and escape attempts. But they're also the way the school handles "self-inflicted injuries," which can range from cracked knuckles to self-mutilation with pens or paper clips to an attempted suicide.

At the root of this long list of punishable violations is "manipulation," which includes lying or exaggerating. Strawn repeatedly uses the word to dismiss a kid's behavior—it's the way he said Valerie Heron acted the day before her suicide. In the WWASP universe that he inhabits, manipulation is a term of art that refers to just about anything a teen does or says that the staff doesn't like.

Still, the schools' intensive monitoring has helped some students turn their lives around. Richard King of Atlanta believes that going to Tranquility Bay in 1997, when he was 17, taught him to be accountable for his actions. The experience saved him from ending up "either dead or in jail," he said. Before he went to the school, King drank, smoked pot, and battled with his parents. When he returned, he could sit down and talk to them.

CALIFORNIA IS THE ONLY STATE WITH A SEMBLANCE OF OVERSIGHT FOR ESCORTS. In response to news accounts in 1997 of a teenage boy from Oakland, Calif., who was transported against his will to Tranquility Bay, the state's legislature developed a bill to protect kids like him. The legislation would have barred escorts from using restraints that interfere with a child's "ability to see, hear, or move freely." By the time it passed, however, the bill had been amended into a toothless licensing scheme.

Nor are there federal controls. In 1923, the Supreme Court announced that parents have a "right of control" that allows them to direct their children's upbringing and education. The court has not budged from this stance since, and, for obvious reasons, it is not listening to the voices of kids who rebel against their parents' dictates. Few people want children—or, for that matter, anyone else—to have veto power over the decisions that parents make. Even the states that permit teenagers to be emancipated from their parents, allowing them to be treated legally as adults, ordinarily mandate that the parents must agree.

As many a frustrated teen knows, the legal framework means that parents get to call the shots. While teenagers can't be jailed by the state without a judge's approval, parents can confine minors against their will for reasons including their mental health. (It's harder to take away the freedom of mentally ill adults.) The Constitution has been interpreted to allow teens effectively to be imprisoned by private companies like Strawn's and private schools like Casa by the Sea—as long as their parents sign off. "If these were state schools or state police, the children would have constitutional protections," said Barbara Bennett Woodhouse, the director of the Center on Children & the Law at the University of Florida. "But because it is parents who are delegating their own authority, it has been very difficult to open the door to protection of the child."

It's even more difficult to open that door once kids have been taken to foreign schools like Casa by the Sea that lie beyond the reach of U.S. courts. "The problem is that when Americans are in another country, they are subject to the laws of that country," said Stewart Patt, a spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department. "Whether it's a violation of American law is not going to matter to local authorities."

There is one limit on parents: They cannot harm their children. Every state allows the government to intervene if a child or teenager is at risk. The agencies charged with protecting kids get involved if someone reports that a child is being abused. Yet by the time friends and relatives learn of a teen's disappearance and think to make a report, the escort is gone. What matters is getting the kid back from the school that's holding him. It's a nearly impossible task.

A few determined do-gooders have managed it, however. In 1998, 17-year-old Justin Goen was able to call his girlfriend before being taken by escorts to Tranquility Bay. The girlfriend's parents then called the child welfare agency in Justin's hometown of Worthington, Ohio. That set a local judge named Yvette Brown in motion. She heard evidence in juvenile court about spartan conditions, sleep deprivation, and emotional abuse at the school—and ordered Justin home.

The Goens ignored Brown's order, though, and the community cheered them on. "I hope parents are horrified that a public agency can be so intrusive into family life," one reader wrote in a letter to The Columbus Dispatch. After weeks of negotiations, the parents agreed to transfer their son to a WWASP school in Utah. Justin did not thank the state for its troubles. He insisted that his most severe punishment at Tranquility Bay was being told to write two 1,000-word essays.

Jonathan Tyler Mitchell was also sprung from Tranquility Bay. Tyler (he goes by his middle name) had lost his mother when he was young and had never gotten along with his father, Bill Mitchell. In February 2002, Mitchell married his girlfriend of eight months and Tyler moved in with his brother. Mitchell soon asked Tyler to come over for dinner. When the 12-year-old arrived, there were two strangers at the table. They worked for Strawn. Later, they roused Tyler from bed and took him to Jamaica.

What had Tyler done to deserve this wake-up call? According to his father, he had been disrespectful in class, kicked a school locker, talked about suicide, and refused to go to counseling. Tyler's account was different. "I suffer a lot of beatings from my dad," he told a psychologist who evaluated him. "The future is not looking good for me."

Tyler had several relatives, however, who were not willing to leave the boy's future in his father's hands. Gini Farmer Remines, an adult cousin on his mother's side, petitioned a local juvenile court to order his return. When the judge refused, Remines appealed her decision to a circuit court.

At a hearing that followed, three former Tranquility Bay students testified on Tyler's behalf, and what they described was a Caribbean purgatory. The food, they claimed, sometimes contained pubic hair and bugs. Raw sewage spilled over into the boys' shower area and "visible layers of dirt, grime, filth, mildew on the sides of the shower stalls" led to outbreaks of scabies. Students who broke a rule against looking out the window were placed in "observation placement"—forced to lie on the floor, sometimes for weeks at a time, and allowed to sit up only for food or a punitive round of 5,000 jumping jacks.

One of the witnesses, Aaron Kravig, reported that he was at Tranquility Bay in August 2001, the month Valerie Heron died, and that he'd been forced to use a towel that had been used to clean up her remains. The unwashed towel "had a spot of blood about, somewhere about the size of a dinner plate," Kravig testified. "There was some of her hair on it. They used it to pick her head up; I'm pretty sure. I told the staff about it and nothing was done . . . . I had to dry off with that towel for about three weeks."

Mitchell visited the school with his wife after he sent Tyler there and testified that he'd seen kids playing tennis and shooting hoops. But the judge ordered Tyler home. Shortly after his return, the boys' relatives heard that Mitchell had threatened to send Tyler back. Seven of them filed for custody. Gini Remines said that Mitchell gave up and turned Tyler over to her. "Tyler doesn't talk about what happened at Tranquility Bay," Remines said recently. "All he'll say was that it was a hellhole and he might have died in it."

"THE SCHOOL IS IN MEXICO?" Louis said when he noticed the highway signs on our drive south from San Diego. "I thought it was in California."

"I said we were coming to California, not that the school was there," Strawn said. "I was spoon-feeding you until we got here."

Louis fell silent.

Ten minutes later, Strawn drove past a sign that looked like a middle-school art project, with "Mexico" written in green, red, and white. It was now nearly noon. A Mexican flag flapped over a ramshackle collection of buildings, and a film of dust and grit seemed to cloud the bright blue day. Like a tour guide on autopilot, Strawn kept up a running commentary about the sights while his passenger stewed in the back seat. "That's a serious fence," Strawn said, pointing to a 14-foot-high barrier of sheet metal topped with electrical wires which marked the border. "The school is just north of a town called Ensenada. That's your primary cruise destination."

On the dashboard of the Buick LeSabre he had rented for this leg of the journey, Strawn had installed a portable GPS system that Susan had given him for Christmas. But it wasn't working. About a mile past the Mexican border, Strawn missed the Scenic Road exit to Ensenada and drove through Tijuana instead. We passed palm trees and squat bushes with fire-red flowers. Strawn braked at a stop sign that read "Alto," muttering to himself as he tried to find his way back to the highway.

We were back on course and heading through a purple and yellow tollbooth by the time Louis spoke.

"What's the name of the school I'm going to?" he asked as the ocean crashed against the shore near the passenger side of the car.

"Casa. Casa by the Sea," Strawn answered, and hummed the lyrics "down by the sea," from the song "Under the Boardwalk."

"Mi casa es su casa," Dalton ad-libbed.

Strawn told Louis that the Casa grounds used to house a resort. "The nice thing about resorts," he mused, "they usually have walls around them. They keep you from getting involved with the nuts around here, and keep them from you."

A huge half-finished bust of Jesus loomed on a mountain outside the car. Dalton began reminiscing about his time at Paradise Cove. He mentioned that he used to hunt for octopus in the ocean. Strawn pointed to the beach and said that students at Casa hung out there. Louis asked why it was empty.

Strawn answered by changing the subject. "You ought to get there about lunchtime," he said with determined cheer. "And I can tell you, those chubby Mexican women can do a number on some Mexican food."

When a trip is winding down and a kid has been scared into compliance, there is a moment when Strawn likes to wax philosophical. He cribs liberally from Stephen Covey, the author of the bestselling business guide Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He begins with a question: "Have you heard of counting from one to ten if you're mad? Did that ever make sense to you?" Whatever the teen's answer, Strawn says that it didn't make sense to him—until he came across Covey's idea that there is a "space" between stimulus and reaction. To Strawn, that space is the difference between lashing out and maintaining control. "I've learned to spend time in that space when I get mad," Strawn told Louis. "And in the last seven years, I haven't slapped one person upside the head."

The talk works best when Strawn has something tangible to move to—like the letters that parents often give him for their children. The kids used to tear up the letters. But they haven't since Strawn started telling them to spend more time in Covey's "space" before doing anything rash.

The Boussards hadn't written their son a letter, so Strawn did his best on his own to bring Louis around to their way of seeing things. He told the boy not to be angry with his folks. "It's absolutely a sign of love for them to take the chance on what they believe will be the best for you," said Strawn. "When you grow up and have your own family—you have to excuse me—I hope you have the balls to do what your parents are doing for you."

The off-white stucco walls and red shutters of Casa came into view, and a Mexican guard opened a red iron gate. A line of teenagers wearing khaki pants and navy blue jackets walked across the courtyard in single file. A few girls carried baskets full of laundry. The smell of fried chicken wafted through the air. A man in a white turtleneck pointed to Louis and said to Strawn, "This is the kid?" The man directed Louis to grab his bag.

Strawn handed a woman Louis's paperwork—his birth certificate, passport, and the contract with Casa that his parents had signed. When Louis turned and walked away with the man in the white turtleneck, Strawn didn't say goodbye. Then I asked if it was time for us to go and he rushed to catch up with the boy and gave him a hug. Louis looked taken aback by the embrace and there was a moment of awkwardness. Then he hugged back, hard. Strawn collects those hugs. They help him believe that he is saving, not savaging, the kids he steals away with in the night.

When we were back in the car, Strawn put on his sunglasses and lit a cigar, as he likes to do at the end of a trip. He leaned forward in anticipation of the next stops along his journey—a Cuban cigar shop in Tijuana and then a Mexican restaurant in San Diego. He blew out a ring of smoke, and it was as if Louis had never been with us.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

We found a small video with an interview of Rick Strawn known for implementing the highest ethical standards in the industy.
This interview was conducted back in 2009.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shackled in High school in front of classmates (Excel Academy)

Becka Sims writes about how it was to be picked up in her local high school by a policeman moonlighting for the Serenity Rose Ranch - later known as Excel Academy.

I arrive at my career connections class for it only to be disrupted within the first 30 minutes by a police officer in full uniform. He was a very intimidating looking man, and he also had feet shackles in his hands.

Once I saw him, I knew he was in there looking for me because I can see my mother right behind him; my heart full straight up my esophagus and onto my desk. I was simply terrified. My mom pointed to my direction and the officer walked to my desk and got me to my feet in one single swoop for my upper arm. I barely had time to recognize what he was doing to me until I had the shackles on my legs and the handcuffed sorely fastened around my wrists.

As he walked me through the halls of my high school, I was mortified by my fellow peers expressions. I looked and felt completely out of place. Here I am, some blonde hair blue eyed girl in a skirt, polo shirt, and flip-flops being handcuffed and shackled at the wonderful age of 16. I held my tears from falling down my face. As terrified, embarrassed, and helpless as I was, for some odd reason, I couldn't stand to allow anyone else to see me cry.

Once the officer put me in the back of the cop car, tears fell from my eyes like a small monsoon. I demanded the officer to tell me where I was going, and what I was charged with.... He simply responded: you are going to a lock down facility and you won't see your family or friends for two years... Although I didn't believe him at the time, he actually told the truth.

Excel Academy was later forced to abandon their behavior modification model after a policeman was charged and later convicted of taking students down to the local jail where he let the inmates undress the students to scare them straight.

Excel Academy academy on Fornits Wiki
What was That, He was a Good Cop?, by JD, Associated Content, February 6, 2008

Friday, May 20, 2011

Being transported to Adirondack Leadership Expeditions (Testimony)

This testimony is about a typical transport from New York to a program within the same state:

Voices from the GULAG

My name is Richard Meehan. I attended three different programs starting at 4:15AM on October 23rd, 2003 to April 21st, 2005. I attended ALE (Adirondack Leadership Expeditions), ASR (Academy at Swift River), and DA (Discovery Academy). I was woken up at exactly 4:15AM on Oct 23rd.

I live in New York City and a 7ft tall native American man opens the door to my room and turns on my light. I see my parents standing behind him and another 6ft 3 in guy behind them. At first I thought I was getting robbed. Then he said "Were from Right Direction, we're here to take you..." I would have tried to run but considering i lived on the 5th floor of my building, i decided against going out the window. I immediately realized my situation. The guy told me to get on my clothes, which i did, after he thoroughly searched through them. He took me by the belt loop of my pants downstairs on the elevator. I was still in shock, i did not know what to think or do. My doorman was on the elevator and walked over to the door to open it. The expression on his face was of pure shock. When I saw him I had my teeth grinding kind of like a grin except it was not.

They told me on the way down that they would treat me fine if i did not resist. If i did, they said they had plenty of restraints to put me in and that they had handcuffs and footcuffs that they would use if "necessary". I felt trapped, there was nothing i could do. I did not consent to this.

After a five or six hour drive we arrived in the Adirondack mountains. I remember being taken out of the car and up to the room where the director of the program was. About eight staff members were standing around me in the room and they asked me a bunch of questions about how i felt. I didn't't't feel particularly good at the moment and then the drove me out to a forest.

The rest of the story can be read at the source

Additional sources:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A story about High Impact (Testimony)

This is a partial reblog of Caroline Elise's experiences about being transported to a so-called motivation boot camp in Mexico, which enjoyed a lot of respect among counselors and educational consultants around the millenium. However it was later shut down by the authorities. The full story can be read on the blog of Secretprisonsforteens, which is a Danish Human rights organization.

A story about High Impact

It was a Friday.

I remember because I was in my bathroom getting dressed to go to my friend Lorina’s house. I had just turned 15 two weeks before I was taken. My mom and grandmother picked my best friend Alyssa and I up at the bus stop and took us over to get frappuccinos from Starbuck’s. We window shopped at a near by boutique and shortly after went home. My grandmother was in from North Carolina for a visit, so I assumed it was just a nice, normal time with family. Little did I know it was to distract me so that a man and woman could hide in my house to kidnap me. Alyssa and I made plans to hang out later and we said our goodbyes; I had no idea, but it would be for years.

My mother was going through a divorce so our home in Texas was up for sale. While I was in my bathroom, on the phone, getting dressed my mother knocked on the door and told me there were some buyers that wanted to look at my bathroom. I walked out into my connecting bedroom and there stood a towering, muscular man with a long black pony tail. I thought he wanted to buy my house at first, but all of a sudden he very quickly rushed me and threw my phone against the wall. He tackled me on my bed and I started screaming for my mom, but no one came. He then started explaining to me that I was going with him to Mexico and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I was so confused, scared, and shocked so I tried to run. In came another woman I had never seen and they held me down and hand cuffed me on my bed. Crying and screaming they drug me out of my room and down the stairs. At some point my instinct told me to try to get away while we were going down the stairs. I started fumbling with the hand cuffs and realized that they were fake. I tried to time it just right so we could be at the bottom of the stairs so I could run. At this point my mother and grandmother were blocking me, but I managed to get out of the hand cuffs and throw a coffee pot. The big man tackled me and forced me into the back of a rental car. He told my mom to grab belts to hog tie me, because I was kicking and screaming and trying to get away. By this time I knew my mom was in on this and I was tied up. I saw Alyssa through the front window of the car crying with her mom. I think her mom had explained what was going to happen to me when we got home from Starbuck’s.

He then started explaining what was going to happen to me. He said that I was going to boot camp so that I can be good, that it was in Mexico, and we were going right then. He told me that we are driving there and unless I wanted to drive from Texas to Mexico this way that I need to stop trying to escape. Tired, scared, and coming to the realization that I was trapped, I agreed. I said my pleading goodbyes tearfully to my mother and grandmother, and we drove away. I immediately and not obviously started thinking of ways to escape from this child locked backseat. I am 15, I have no money or resources, and I’ve just been kidnapped by some greasy 6 plus foot, prison looking man whose name was Charlie. I don’t remember what they woman’s name was, but she was pregnant. I know because during the struggle I had kicked her several times in the car and remember actually feeling bad about it. I asked her why she would have this kind of job in her condition, and she just replied that she was bored and needed the money. Years later looking back at that statement I guess she liked doing it. For hours we drove and they asked me if I was hungry. I wasn’t but I wanted to get the car stopped so I could have some kind of chance to get help. When he got to the drive through I thought of screaming for help. They had trusted me enough at this point to let me have my window down and I started trying to eye ball the handle of the outside to escape. The woman saw my eyes or something because she rolled it up quickly and locked it. I didn’t eat that night… I just couldn’t. I was getting over the flu so we stopped and go some cold medicine and they let me use that bathroom. After I took the medicine I just passed out all night.

When I awoke all I could see where red mountain rocks, and sunshine. We were in the middle of no where, no cars, no buildings, just giant red mountains. Even though I was being kid napped I can still remember thinking how beautiful it was. We continued to drive for hours just talking; I don’t really remember what about except he told me that he knew it wasn’t all my fault. He said that my grandmother had told him that my mom was an alcoholic and just isn’t doing well with me. The more we talked the more I grew to like them; I think the more they grew to like me. Finally we arrived at the border and there was a payless shoe store with a pay phone outside. Charlie allowed me to call my mom and she picked up. I cried and begged her to let me come home but she told me it was the best thing for me and I was going. Apparently they weren’t supposed to let me call her because it was against the rules; I never asked why he let me but I think it’s because he understood better. We got back in the car and drove across; I don’t know how we got in seeing as though I never had a passport and still don’t to this day. I don’t remember how much farther we drove but we came to a long dusty road until we hit a giant, twenty foot, chain gate. The gate had to huge doors that opened up so we could drive inside, and I wasn’t allowed out until they were shut and locked.

Charlie and the woman had never taken anyone to this particular facility so they couldn’t give me any information on the program. They told me they would stay with me for a while and we were greeted by one Mexican named Papa Miguel and two Mexican women. It was a large dirt track covered in sand and little pebbles and on the side what seemed to be a broken down couch or back seat of a car. There was no roof over this huge chain gate facility and on one side there were two big chain doors that lead into the boy’s side and one to the girls. We opened the gate and I heard a loud, angry, Spanish voice scream “swaylo.” All around me I saw girls immediately hit the deck with their arms over their heads; Some girls were laying in the dirt so I was really confused. This part looked similar to the track part except it had a big, hunter green, cloth tent with a concrete slab in the middle. The sides of the tent were rolled up and inside was a bench table and suit cases lined up and down the sides. The girls were called out of “swaylo position” and lined up to get there mats out. They all sat down and just began staring at the floor. Along the sides out side the tent there were four of five dog cages with sand and rocks on the bottom. There was also a concrete outside bathroom out of a horror story. It had no door and had only cold water. The three showers were divided by small concrete walls and a big drain in the middle. Also there were two dirty sinks and three toilets with trash cans beside of them because it was not equipped to flush paper. Beside the bathroom was another fence to hang what I guessed to be was a clothing line and a hole cut out in the wall where the women stayed at night while we slept. Along the fence and tent were lines raked in different directions to show us where we shouldn’t be stepping, which we did as part of morning chores. The kidnapers and I sat down at the bench and Papa Miguel called one of the girls over to start explaining the rules to me. She was considered trusted to be able to help the workers because she was leaving in a few days. She was young, maybe 14, wearing purple sweats which I thought was strange because it was so hot. They make you wear them all day while running and at night when its freezing cold you must earn your warmth. She looked almost scared to look into my eyes and asked Papa Miguel for permission to roll up her sleeves. She was granted permission and began explaining the rules.

  • No talking to anyone for any reason
  • No looking anywhere but the floor at anyone, anywhere for any reason.
  • You can not burp, go to the bathroom, roll up your sleeves, stand up, or move without permission.
  • You will be marching (running laps on the track) for four hours a day, in sandals.
  • You must complete 2,000 laps to graduate this program and everything you do wrong will result in laps you have earned being taken away (thus being farther away from going home).
  • You will have chores, exercise, and six hours a day of Alcoholics anonymous tapes, accompanied by worksheets of each tape.
  • She explained to me when you are bad you will be sent to the dog cages until you comply and must remain in what they referred to as R.R position on your chin and not be able to count the laps you run for the day if you are lucky enough to get out.
When she finished Charlie and the women got up. They looked shocked too. They told me they felt bad about leaving me there and I started crying because I have grown to find what little comfort I had left with them. They hugged me goodbye and I was shown to my cut out piece of carpet mat.

The rest of her story can be read on the blog of Secret Prisons for Teens

Other sources:
Datasheet about High Impact on Fornits

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Want Your Troubled Kid To Disappear In The Middle Of The Night (From West Virginia News)

West Virginia News published this article February 2011. All rights belong to the author Jack Swint. It was part of 3 part feature of the industry.

Want Your Troubled Kid To Disappear In The Middle Of The Night

Part 2 of 3... Teen Transport Industry May Cause Infliction Of Emotional Distress By Jack Swint - Publisher

“Jonathan screamed, and then he was silent." What did that mean, she wondered? Was he reassured as they said he would be? Or did they do something to him. She couldn't take it any longer and opened the door. Just then she saw them - two large men, one small child - she looked hard and realized her son was in handcuffs. His head turned and their eyes met. She ran to him, sobbing, but Rob pulled her away. She was able to swipe her hand over his face as she yelled she was sorry and that she loved him.”… Mother of teen extracted from home at 3 am by paid teen transport agents.

The general public is becoming more aware of the facilities for troubled teens that have popped up across the country over the past decades. Residential programs such as therapeutic boarding schools, treatment centers, boot camps and wilderness programs work with these teens while taking them out of their immediate environment where peer pressure and other negative influences might interfere with the therapeutic process.

Many of the students who attend these specialized private boarding schools need the focus, individualized attention, and professional intervention offered by these programs.

Over the past few years, the media and US government has been thoroughly investigating the mounting number of complaints and accidents that have caused abuse and even death to the teens who are in these programs. Some facilities we have investigated, appear on the surface to be either following the mandated rules and guidelines, or are adjusting their curriculum to do so.

But, there has not been any real focus on how some of these kids physically, and emotionally, arrive to these treatment centers that can be thousands of miles from their home.

Personally delivering your child could be difficult for any parent, especially when they already know the environment and curriculum that their loved one is about to embark on. If you’re not emotionally up to having to take your son or daughter to one of these places, there is an expensive and sometimes dangerous alternative.

You can hire a “teen escort service” to come into your home at 3am in the morning, and extract your child, preferably while they are sleeping, out to an awaiting vehicle that transports them to the pre-destined treatment program across the country. And, the old saying... “you can go easy, or you can go hard,” does mean just that.

According to one child psychologist we spoke to, this type of ordeal to a teen can cause everlasting trauma that includes emotional distress and trust issues with the parent(s). For the parent, it crosses moral and legal issues that could include negligence, child abuse, false imprisonment and breach of fiduciary duty.

The Transport Process… Deceiving or a Needed Tool.

According to industries standards, here is a scenario of how these transport companies pick up and deliver your child...

Keep everything at home as normal as possible, do not tell your adolescent what you are planning. If you have other children in your home, keep their routines as normal as possible and above all, where they are concerned, do not take them into your confidence and let them know what you are planning.

Prior to picking up the teen, completed forms will include everything from personal information, to medical needs and emergency contact information. Signed releases by the parent(s) and payment.

Agents will arrive at the residence in the early morning hours (3 a.m)to insure that the youth is at home, and preferably in bed asleep. The parents meet the Agents at the front door with the clothes for the child to wear during the transport, any luggage, our paperwork, fee and contracts for the school, if applicable.

These items will be placed in the car. Parents then take the Agents back to the child's room, wake him/her up, and introduce the Agents and tell them that you love them and that the Agents are there to take them to school. The parents should then go to a part of the house as not to be seen by the child. This allows full attention of the child to the Agents. (And keeps emotions down in case the agents need to restrain the teen)

Restraints are within the staffs reach if the child is uncooperative. This consists of at least handcuffs and tear gas/pepper spray. Agents do instruct the child that if they are uncooperative, force can be used.

Agents will get the child dressed and take them directly out to the car. They are usually placed in the back seat with the child locks on and one Agent will sit beside them. At this time they will proceed to the destination as quickly as possible. They will usually call the parents as soon as they have delivered the child to the program.

It appears to be policy that the child have no outside contact until they arrive at the program. It is very important to remove them from the surroundings that they are comfortable in as quickly as possible, this makes them more dependant on the Agents and less likely of an attempt to run.

The alternative extraction is in broad daylight. According to Cori, “These guys came to my school and put me in handcuffs...They took me outside to the car and I could see all my friends with their faces against the window, watching these guys take me away. I was crying, saying I was being kidnapped. My mom said, ’No, its OK honey, it’s called goober-napping.” A slang term for kidnapping.

Who Are These Transport Agents

Agents come from various backgrounds including law enforcement, teachers, health professionals and other youth authority backgrounds, specializing in extreme behavior and substance abuse. They are suppose to be carefully recruited and undergo extensive training in areas of crisis management, verbal and non verbal communication techniques, personal safety and client control. All are required to be insured and bonded.

But, as with any industry, we also discovered that some companies will contract employees in other states that they have never met or trained. In a quick records search, we found media stories that included agents who not only have criminal histories, (including sexual abuse) but have also been arrested while transporting teens and charged with unlawful imprisonment and assault that was the result of one agent beating a child while they were handcuffed behind their back.

Psychological Concerns In The Transport Industry

If you’re going to use one of these services, here is some factual and helpful information about the psychological effects this may have on the child. On the parent. And on the overall relationship as a family?

According to a routine extraction, the parents are allowed to wake the child themselves and introduce the child to the escorts, then they have to leave the room while their kids have to strip down in front of strangers and get dressed. And, depending on how the process goes, the child could also be restrained and extracted under further duress.

We found some companies have a security policy of using handcuffs in every case regardless of their behavior. Children have reported they were handcuffed and/or pepper sprayed just for crying. Some don’t use restraints at all. One thing is for sure, if one of these agents shows up at your home, your loved one is going away. The easy way, or hard.

Psychologically, will the child forever feel abandoned or betrayed by the parent? Some legal authorities feel that these kids are actually being kidnapped; and no matter what they do, he or she will be removed from their home by strangers.

In one case, a transport agent reported back to 17 year old Valerie Ann Heron’s mother that the trip went smoothly. According to Heron's mother, the transport agent played his role well. "He made her feel comfortable with him. She trusted him. He talked to her about what to expect, where she was going," the mother also said. "She gave him a hug when she left him."

The day after that hug, Valerie rushed out of a second-floor classroom and jumped to her death off a 35-foot-high balcony.


Transporting a child can cost up to $6,000 depending on the amount of travel needed and incidental costs such as rental cars, motels etc. One company actually posts costs on their website (linked below) which offers flat rates.

The average pick up and drive to location plus airfare is $1,600. Driving only, $695.00 to $2,495.00. Private charter flights average $1,000 to $5,500. Credit cards are accepted, and Pay Pal too. All payments are due when the agents arrive at your home.

Also, according to reports, the cost of the transport can be included in the total package of an educational student loan.

In Closing,

Parents in the United States are able to hire escort companies to transport their troubled children from home to teen residential programs, wilderness therapy programs, boarding schools, boot camps and behavior modification programs.

The contract between the escort company and the parents include temporarily assigning parental rights and authority to the company for the duration of the transport from point A and point B. Though there are some escort companies that are legitimate and that do not abuse children, there are those that use less than appropriate tactics. The business is unregulated in the U.S.

The psychological and legal implications have not been addressed by state or federal governments. Taking in account the probable long lasting trauma from this type of transportation, to a facility that in itself is an environment that claims to restructure behavior to teens that are considered “troubled,” is troublesome.

Is it an easy way out for the parent who doesn’t want to have to endure the emotional strain on them of not only delivering up their child to one of these facilities, but also drive them there. It’s a tuff enough decision to send your kid to one of these last resort programs, but getting them there can be even worse. Especially if the person is unwilling to go.

These transporters come into your child’s safe environment, (home) and in most cases, are in bed asleep. Suddenly awakened, disoriented and scared. They are directed to strip down and re-dress in front of complete strangers who then escort them quickly out of their home (either restrained or not) and whisked away.

It appears that even if the transporter is professional in his or her job function, the child is going to still be traumatized just because of the “shock and awe” of it all. That is the concern that needs to be addressed. What will be the short and long term effect on the entire family?

This is nothing more than a reverse to the process families use in hiring trained men and women who extract children out of religious cults and back to the safety of their loved ones and home.

End Of Story….

Jack Swint – Publisher
West Virginia News

Monday, April 25, 2011

Template for testimonies

We would like to thank you in advance for considering to contribute to this blog. We acknowledge that it will be hard to remember a possible harsh episode in your life.

We can only pray that writing about this may create some solice in your life.

Here is a template with a number of questions which you can use as inspiration of your story.

Before and under the pickup

  • Were there signs which you now know about what was going to happen?
  • From where was you picked up?
  • What time was it when you was taken?
  • Did your parents introduce the transport team?
  • Did you try to resist?
  • Did they use restraints on you?
  • If they used restraints, what were they?
  • Did they use weapon (tazer, spray) on you?

During the transport

  • Did you change mean of transportation?
  • Were there breaks for meals and rest during the transport?
  • Did you wear restraints during the transport?
  • Did they tell you where you was going
  • Did your parents write you a letter to read during the transport

At the arrival at the program

  • How did they hand you over to the program

After returning home

  • Could you ever sleep without being alert?
  • How has the process affected your relationship with your parents?

Welcome to this blog

In this blog we will try to collect testimonies about how teenagers feel when their parents have hired professional transport firms to take them from their bed or off the street into a boot camp, a wilderness program, a treatment facility or a boarding school against their will.

While such firms are known only to operate in the United States, recently there have been examples of such activities in other countries too.

There are a number of methods parents can choose if they are concerned about the lifestyle their underage child might choose. According to a recent rather controversial ruling by the Supreme Court in the United States the parents don't have to prove illness by seeking advice by professionals like hospitals or counselors. They can decide on their own whether they believe that the behavior of their child could justify treatment. Once they decide that they will do that, they might:

  • They can sit down with their child and discuss possible option and then involve their child in the process of finding help
  • They can lure the child to the program on a disguised holiday and then leave their child at the program
  • They can hire a professional transport firm to collect their child from their home at night or on the streets if they child is living outside their home.

This blog will hopefully receive testimonies about how it is to be transported and how this experience has impacted the life of the teenagers later on.