Straight, Inc.

by Wes Fager (c) 2001

"After all these years.   It is finally public." 
Pegasus, an internet poster on learning of our work
"They run very close to really performing psychic murder."
Marge Robertson,  executive director of the Cincinnati Chapter of the ACLU,  speaking of Straight, Inc., from Cincinnati Post
"Everything I see smacks of child abuse."
West Palm Beach, Florida Circuit Judge Michael Gersten commenting on Growing Together,  a Straight-descendent program in Lake Worth, Florida [The Palm Beach Post, 3-9-90, p. 8a] 
"It is too easy for tyranny to eclipse therapy when teenagers have authority over other teenagers."
David Rosenker, Program Director, Louis House North, Blaine, Minn. The [Bergen] Record, 7-26-87, p. A17.
Straight on 60 Minutes. The six former Straight female students in the photo are all telling 60 Minutes reporter Ed Bradley that if you didn't follow Straight's rules you would be sat on. The girl third from right said that girls were sitting on every part of her body except for her face for 2 hours and she thought she was going to die. The girl on the left said she too felt as if she would die when she was sat upon.
This page is not about "Scared Straight", nor is it about one's sexual orientation. It is about Straight, Inc., formerly the world's largest chain of drug rehabilitation programs for American and Canadian kids. Straight, Inc. is not the only major cult whose ultimate control mechanism is in knowing potentially blackmailable material about a person. In one human potential church you are encouraged, while hooked to a lie detector, to reveal your innermost secrets in order to awaken your super powers within. In Straight the excuse is Step 5 to Alcoholics Anonymous:�
Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.�

Food and sleep deprivations, gang tackles, spit therapy, isolation, sitting in ones own feces, PTSD, body carvings, post Straight suicides. Tell me your deepest darkest secret. That is Straight, Inc. Older clients had to watch newcomers 24 hours a day even when they used the bathroom for fear they would kill themselves to escape the torture of treatment. James at Straight-Atlanta says he had to ask permission for each wipe of his anus as he defecated.��For 17 years Straight, Inc. was the biggest, and one of the most destructive, juvenile rehabilitation programs the world has ever seen. 

Parents were clueless and forbidden from communicating with their own children for extensive periods of time. Straight almost always reported back to the parents that their child had admitted to extensive drug use. Often parents were told their child would die without Straight's help. As the other children in the family turned 13, parents were told their other kids had caught the disease too and would require Straight treatment. Ultimately the entire family would become centered around Straight. 

Older clients had to watch newcomers 24 hours a day even when they used the bathroom for fear they would kill themselves to escape the torture of treatment. James at Straight-Atlanta says he had to ask permission for each wipe of his anus as he defecated. Samantha Monroe had been in Straight-Sarasota. She describes her "humble pants," a punishment that forced her to wear the same pants for six weeks at a time. Because she was allowed just one shower a week, the pants often filled with feces, urine and menstrual blood. Leigh Bright had been in the founding Straight in Saint Petersburg, Florida. They made her scoop her own feces out of the toilet using a paper towel. One day, Reverend Doctor Miller Newton, Straight's national clinical director, grabbed Leigh by her hair and threw her to the floor screaming, "I want this girl the fuck out of my Group." Marcie Sizemore states, "I was taken into a bathroom by six or seven other girls, and I was kept in the bathroom from 12 noon until 9:30 that night. In the bathroom, the girls beat me, punched me, placed their fingers under my collar bone and twisted the bone, and verbally abused me for 9 1/2 hours. The girls would hold my arms out at the sides, while another girl would run across the room and ram her head into my stomach, and this was done continuously. I was thrown up against the wall, pushed back and forth, and was made to stand on my feet the entire 9 1/2 hours. . . During this marathon, I was so physically exhausted that I passed out twice. Whenever I passed out, the girls kicked me, pulled at me and made me get to my feet and again continued to subject me to the beating. When I asked for water, I was told I could have water, and then they poured it on my head. The girls worked in shifts, and always kept at least six to eight girls in the room with me at all times." David Allen, executive staff at Straight-Atlanta recalls a kid who had abscessed, bleeding hemorrhoids so bad he could not walk. He says he was instructed to put a Kotex on the boy and send him back to Group.

Click here for a  newspaper montage on the Straights.
Click here for another newspaper montage on the Straights.
(Click here and  here for full newspaper articles on the Straights, and join one of the discussion forums on the Straights on the left, if you like.)

In 1984 (according to the Tampa Tribune, 9-15-84, p. 8-B) five Straight clients reported to Straight personnel that they had been sexually abused by their parents but Straight officials did not report the complaints to state health authorities. Child sexual abuse is a crime and programs like Straight are suppose to report crimes to state authorities. Why did Straight not report those crimes? What did Straight intend on doing with that very private data it had over these kids? From 1976 to 1993 Straight was all over America, but it lost a series of civil suits for abusing young people and for holding people against their will. In 1990 a jury in Florida ordered Straight to pay Karen Norton $721,000 for such abuse. As the stories made the news, as criminal investigations and state health department investigations mounted, as more and more former clients sued, Straights started closing. One report from Florida concluded that Straight co-founder and multi-millionaire Mel Sembler probably interfered with that state's attempt to close Straight in Saint Petersburg. But all the Straights did finally close. Today Straight, Inc. gives employee assistance program guidance to companies and deals in national and international drug policy initiatives under its new name DFAF (Drug Free America Foundation). Straight has always enjoyed enormous support from members of the Republican Party. George Bush I, in return for Mel Sembler's political fund raising and his own personal contributions, made a TV commercial for Straight and appointed Mel Sembler ambassador to Australia. George Bush II appointed Sembler ambassador to Italy. The president's brother, Jeb Bush, is on the advisory board for DFAF. Nancy Reagan showed off Straight to Princess DI. 

And while Straight, Inc. may not treat kids anymore but, several former Straight officials have created their own Straight legacy programs. Programs like Kids Helping Kids of Cincinnati, Pathway Family Center, Phoenix Adolescent Institute, SAFE, Inc., Growing Together and Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre. That is not to say that these programs are abusive though there have been charges of abuse at some of them. SAFE, Inc. in Orlando, Florida is currently being sued in federal court for the same allegations of abuse that plagued Straight through the years. A Florida state judge has made a public statement charging Growing Together with abuse. And in 2000 Reverend Doctor2 Miller Newton (Straight's former national clinical director) closed his remaining KIDS program after settling with a former client for $4.5 million. He is currently being sued by another client for abuse. His KIDS programs in El Paso, Southern California and Salt Lake City had all previously been closed by state authorities for child abuse. Today Reverend Newton calls himself Father Cassius and Straight calls itself DFAF, but Mel Sembler still calls himself Mel. 

 There have been three documented cases of teen suicide pacts in Fairfax County, Virginia in the past 15 years or so. Two of those involved former clients of Straight - Springfield--a juvenile drug rehab program that mixed kids and adults in violent, verbal and sometimes physical confrontations. Amnesty International has been looking at juvenile boot camps since 1994 when two youths from New York fled a boot camp in Canada and committed suicide together. For the record, eleven former clients are known to have committed suicide after their internment at Straight - Springfield, and Straight - Springfield was just one of the eleven Straight concentration camps nationwide. And that doesn't count Straight legacy programs. Straight - Springfield representatives broke the finger of one girl while they screamed at her that she was fat and ugly, and not pretty like her sister as they tried to extort a confession from her of a drug problem she did not have. They later released her saying drug abuse was not her primary problem.��She is one of the eleven who are now dead. Paul's single mother had to consider bankruptcy after Straight - Springfield got a Fairfax County judge to award them $16,120.22. Straight had no compunction about suing her even though Paul had escaped and shot himself dead.� 

New clients have absolutely no communication with the outside world and thus no chance to report the abuse to their parents. New parents must scold their child publicly over a microphone at a weekly Open Meeting as they stand across a picket line from the kids. At one Open Meeting Springfield parents watched in horror as a mother prepared to publicly humiliate her son over the cordless microphone when all of a sudden this 230 pound man-child stood up and screamed "FUCK YOU MOTHER, FUCK YOU BITCH , #@?## !!!%$ #@** %## . . ." with all his might. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that this enraged child would have beaten his mother to death with his bare hands had he had the opportunity. He just went berserk and was immediately engulfed by 20 of his fellow students who jumped all over him like a swarm of flies on a piece of dead meat. That night the man-child was carried off three blocks away to Chelsea Square and one of the special coop apartments essentially run by kids where some kid interrogators spat in one's face just like their Communist Chinese thought reform counterparts do. � 

Straight had suggested to many parents that they lie to their kids and not tell them where they were going when they first were taken to Straight. Once they got there the kids and parents were told: "the first rule is 'honesty'!" They lie to you and tell you treatment should last a few months, but rarely is anyone deemed cured until they've paid them for two years. They tell you they are not concerned about money and then they hound you your entire treatment for more money. The kids are persuaded to tell you they have used drugs they have never used. The parents are encouraged to lie to their kids upon entry. This is Sembler's First Paradox. The hundred million dollar program is based on lies, yet the first rule is total "honesty." Straight separated many families and some kids have never forgiven their parents for taking them to Straight. One wife was encouraged to leave her husband because he had told other parents of the abuse. They suggested to one common-law man and wife that they get married on the Straight - Springfield compound. One Springfield prisoner tried to murder his oldcomer guard in an escape attempt; another is on death row in Pennsylvania -- Straight taught you to be violent if you hoped to advance. A boy got out of Straight - Dallas and beat his mother to death with a baseball bat. After cleaning her blood and brains off the floor and walls, he put her limp body in the trunk of her car and rode around town trying to take his friends on a joy ride. �� 

Coleen was in Straight - Springfield. She recalls, "I do remember how when someone would think about or attempt suicide, we would make fun of them and confront them until they felt worse. I have so much guilt knowing that I was a part of that." A former female client reports, "The first time I did it was when I was at R.C.'s house as a newcomer in the middle of a cold January and I was made to sleep on the hardwood floor with no blanket and a sleeveless nightgown. I found a nail on the floor so I just carved on my arms. No they didn't get me help, they laughed at me. I never carved on my arms before Straight, but I have since I've been out. I hope you don't think I'm weird." Another reports, "I had a newcomer named [name withheld] . . . She dug the skin off of both of her cheeks while she was a newcomer. It was pretty awful. This was a lot worse than some of the arm and hand carvings I usually saw people doing. I don't think I'll never forget that. I believe she ended up running away. Seeing people dig and carve on themselves was pretty much a regular thing at Straight. I never did that myself, but was witness to a lot of it. One person even chewed up her tongue. . ."� 

When Straight - Springfield got one boy's deepest darkest secret out of him, he was made to stand up before the Group of 120 kids who mocked him and sang the Tasty Kake song to him. He is now insane. Mark and Bill were unsuccessful in their suicide attempts after Straight - Springfield. Today Bill is hopelessly insane; Mark is a successful car salesman. Mark says this, "I can honestly say now, ten years later, that the time I spent in Straight was the loneliest , and most depressing time of my life. . . I had done drugs and been a rebellious teenager, but at no time before Straight had I ever thought of suicide." Even Robert DuPont, a Maryland psychiatrist and former Straight consultant made this startling revelation during his deposition for Straight for the Karen Norton trial which cost Straight $721,000 for abuse, ". . . I have many of my patients of my own--"many", maybe ten patients of my own--who have been in the Straight program and I see them them afterward."�� 

One boy escaped after being sexually abused and lived in a storm drain since his parents, following Straight instructions, would not take him back. One boy tried to flee but was run down by oldcomers off Interstate 95 and beaten until a Virginia state trooper happened by and stopped them. One young man did manage to successfully escape, but he was disowned by his parents following Straight guidelines. He is now a doctor of mathematics. A boy successfully escaped too, but his parents did not disown him and today he is a doctor of medicine. One 13 year old boy was sexually abused by a 19 year old man locked in the bathroom with him as required by Straight rules. That boy sued King Davis, Commissioner of Virginia's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. And why not. As soon as Straight had moved to Virginia it had lost a $220,000 suit in federal court for holding a man prisoner against his will. Ever since then Virginia health officials had bowed to pressure from prominent Republicans and granted Straight a yearly license despite a mounting case file of complaints that would just not go away. His suit caused the state to finally close both of Virginia's camps. 

This web page introduces the on-line book A Clockwork Straight. The page keeps the public abreast of the latest developments in the war on Straight mind-control and points survivors of The Seed, Straight, and Straight legacy programs to discussion forums to help them to recover from their Straight experience. Our goal is to see that justice is done. We want to enact federal and state legislation to impose stiff criminal penalties on those who proffer from the war on drugs by the intentional inflection of emotional distress and physical pain on captives in Straight-based therapeutic communities and other abusive teen camps. We do not argue on the effectiveness of brainwashing, but we wish to outlaw it as a valid therapeutic approach, business practice or a religious rite because it is cruel and psychologically devastating. We want those who employ it to go to jail--both the program owners and directors, as well as the counselors who actually do it. We want to get recompense for Straight survivors for their sufferings and that includes recompense from the state of Florida where Straight was incorporated because Florida state officials, especially those in Pinellas County, abetted in the mass violation of civil liberties and in the wanton disregard for human dignity that was Straight. And finally we want to close down all Straight legacy programs that are abusive. We want federal oversight to ensure that an abusive program is not closed in one state only to pop up in another. We are tired of an abusive program in Texas claiming that is the first they have heard of a particular charge when the chain has already been accused of the same thing in Florida and California. We want a federal data base on youth counselors guilty of abuse in any state. We feel no place should be allowed to hold kids who are not allowed free and reasonable access with the outside world. 

Eleven known suicides from just one camp in Straight's vast gulag. Two of the 11 had been Straight counselors. They were among the few who actually ever graduated Straight where, held back in education, segregated from the normal population, in typical cult fashion, many graduates became Straight counselors. So much for Straight's success rate. Nine of the eleven were boys. Many feel that the public sexual confessions took away their spunk; took away their desire to live. What is Bob Horan, Commonwealth Attorney for Fairfax County, going to do about it? You can contact Mr. Horan at the following:

Mr. Robert Horan Commonwealth Attorney
4110 Chain Bridge Rd, Room 123 Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 246-2776 (Call 3:30 - 5:00 PM, EST)

Straight.  From 1976 to 1993 Straight, Inc. ran the largest chain of juvenile drug rehabilitation programs in the world with treatment facilities in major US metropolitan areas. Straight marketed to the parents of middle class and above white American teenagers. Straight's methods combine an implementation of  Synanon Church's "the Game" or "synanon" which uses brutal, vulgar verbal confrontations; brainwashing;  a bastardized implementation of AA (7 Steps later modified to align with AA's traditional 12 Steps) and Rational Emotive Therapy (RET).  Straight claimed it was a Tough Love program, but it is not.  In 1995 Phyllis York, founder of  Tough Love, denounced Straight's brutal methods in an article in Insight on the News. [Insight on the News, Feb 6, 1995 v11 n6 p15(3)].  Many continue to think of Straight as a Marine Corps-style,  character builder program for teens.  Indeed, a favorite approach of cult apologists has always been to say, "look at the Marines."  Marine recruits are insulted and deprived.  DI's break boots down and then build then back up in the Marine-image--don't they.  But what is done at Straight, Inc. has little in common with what happens at Paris Island, South Carolina.  We'll talk about that momentarily.  

There has never been a Straight, Inc. treatment camp, not one, that has not been accused of child abuse. And yet, as Straights closed all over the country while under criminal investigations or facing civil suits, several former Straight officials opened their own Straight-like programs, many of which continue to operate. The part of the subtitle for this web page stating "the Destruction of Young Egos" pertains only to those treatment facilities called Straight, Inc. as stated in the main title.  This document makes no claim that any of these follow-on, Straight-like programs "destroy young egos" or that they are abusive,  although there have been complaints of abuse in some of them. For example, in 2000 Reverend Doctor Miller Newton, Straight's former national clinical director, and his psychiatric staff, settled out of court with a female client for $4.5 million for abuses she claimed she sustained at his Straight-like program called KIDS in New Jersey.)  It was the intent of Straight,  Inc. to breakdown or destroy that part of a young person's thinking which Straight felt was inappropriate and to reconstitute that person's thinking to conform to the GROUP's conscious of appropriate thinking.  

What is extraordinary about the Straights is the incredible number of former Straight students who are now deceased--many by suicide! Another extraordinary statistic which continues to follow the Straights is the backing the Straights have received from prominent Republicans.  Straight's founder Mel Sembler, AO has been the finance chairman for the national Republican Party.  And here you can see George H. W. Bush  making a TV plug for Straight right out of the Oval Office. 


What do these three young men have in common?   They're all white. They were all in Straight. Inc.  And,   they all committed suicide after they got out of Straight.  They are among the more than 20 known former students from a Straight-based juvenile drug rehab who have committed suicide or murder.  To what extent,  if any,  do the Straights'  un-orthodox and brutal treatment methods (which include extreme methods of persuasion to elicit sexual confessions) contribute to these deaths is a major issue addressed in this on-line book.  The Straights will readily admit that they have such a problem with suicidal youths they they have to watch all their young students even when they use the bathroom.  Straight says its young students are suicidal because they can't get their drugs.  But evidence will be shown that it is Straight itself  causing body carvings and  suicide attempts.  What is the Straights' plan should  a suicidal student escape or be withdrawn early by his parents?  Or if a student suffering from Straight-induced depression hides his depression well enough to make phase so he can use the bathroom unobserved? What is  the plan for Straight escapees and graduates suffering from Straight-induced Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome?  Do the Straights have a responsibility to inform parents if their child becomes depressed or suicidal in a Straight-like program? What is the civil liability and criminal implications when large numbers of  these victimized kids commit suicide?   In short when does suicide become murder? 

What is a Straight anyway?   From 1976 to 1993 Straight,  Inc. was the world's largest chain of synanon-based,  therapeutic communities for kids.  It was also, perhaps,  the most abusive juvenile drug rehab the world has ever seen.  Despite horrendous stories of abuse on a grand scale the Straights managed to thrive taking in $90 million dollars as a charity along the way.  The Straights use child counselors,  supplemented by a small staff of adults,   to treat the children of affluent white parents.  Though almost all Straight students are treated for drug addiction,  many of them do not have a drug addiction problem.   

The Straights are so successful,  in large measure,  because of their political connections to the Republican Party.   The photo shows Vice President George H. W. Bush  wiping away a tear at an "Open Meeting" at Straight-St Pete.  He is  accompanied by Republican Congressman Michael Bilirakas on whose payroll was the daughter of Drug Czar Donald Ian Macdonald. Dr. Macdonald had been Straight's national research director.  When Bush campaigned in Florida, he stayed at the home of Straight founders Mel and Betty Sembler.  And here's the senior Bush making a TV plug for Straight from the Oval Office. Former Drug Czar Carlton Turner accompanied Nancy Reagan on her first visit to Straight.  He endorses the front page of  a book by Straight's former national clinical director Father Miller Newton. Former Drug Czar Robert DuPont was the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse which funded Straight's predecessor--The Seed--whose treatment methods were likened by the U.S. Senate to the brainwashing methods employed by North Koreans on American servicemen during the Korean War.  Dr. DuPont went on to become a paid Straight consultant.  And while Straight co-founder Mel Sembler helped formulate the national drug policy budget for former Drug Czar Bill Bennett, minutes from a Straight board meeting read "[sic] John Martinez, former governor of Florida, will work with Straight on our licensing issues."  Former Florida governor "Bob" Martinez had been Drug Czar under George Bush.   In return for large cash donations to George H. W. Bush's presidential bid,  former President Bush appointed Straight co-founders Mel Sembler and Joseph Zappala U.S. ambassadors.   In 2001 President George W. Bush appointed Mel Sembler ambassador to Italy.

Now you might think the Straights just went away in 1993, but did they?

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Click  to eMail Wes Fager,  the author. 

This web paged was designed and developed by Wesley Fager with technical assistance from Ginger Warbis of  Ms. Warbis converted the page from frame-based to table-based format. 
Click here for history of page counter adjustments and corrections.
This web page is offered as a public service and as an educational resource to those interested in learning about the potential dangers of abusive, Straight-based synanons*.   The page is the on-line publishing arm of the Oakton Institute for Cultic Studies. [*A synanon  is a therapeutic community approach to drug abstinence  where one's peers attempt to control one's addiction by shouting indictments at the addict.  A Straight-based synanon is a synanon designed for teenagers which was perfected at Straight, Inc. in Saint Petersburg, Florida between 1976 and 1993. ].   Theme from Exorcist is from .