Star Ford

Essays on lots of things since 1989.

Beating at Albuquerque RTC

on 2010 November 18

In the parable of the sheep and the goats, recounted in Mathew 25, the people of the world gather before the King and he explains to the first group “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” They don’t remember ever doing those things for the King, so he clarifies that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

I heard this as a child, and it meant a lot to me. I’ve since visited a half dozen prisons and another half dozen lockdown treatment facilities. I feel I need to know what is going on with the least of us – those in greatest need. I doubt we can move beyond war and torture if we cannot also move beyond the primitive ways we treat the least of our own people. In facilities everywhere, we are relying almost exclusively on powerful drugs and authoritarian regimes of reward and punishment to normalize those we cannot live with. And in some cases still using electric shock. And in some cases still beating them.

And in some cases, after doing all this, we are hiding in secrecy, and hiring a PR firm to create a positive “spin” on it, possibly to protect shareholder interests? I cried about the beating, but I’m almost as sad about the fact that management appears to distance themselves from responsibility, and the system of accountability is failing.

This news report shows a beating and a possible cover-up at Camelot RTC in Albuqerque.

Here are five questions I want answers to:

1. Is residential treatment the last resort? When is it the right choice?

2. Are the other ways of growth and healing that we should be using, other than drugs and behavior coercion?

3. How can the system honor the spirit of each person involved, accepting that a child’s path of development may have a higher purpose and may not be evident to those around him?

4. What is the proper place of the profit motive in RTCs?

5. What is the correct balance between transparency of operations and protection of individual privacy when children are outside the home?

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