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Straight Inc. My (Brother's) Story

Thanks to the wonderful folks who started and worked at Straight Inc., and the Seed, such as Mel Sembler, Mark Foley, Mel Riddile, Paul Bishop and more, my brother is dead today. Yes I blame them completely. Even if my brother was messed up when he went in, they only made him worse, they did NOTHING to help him, he was abused along with thousands of other children. Many who are just coming to terms with it now, some 20+ years later.

Straight no longer exists but it's offspring does. They are named: Pathway Family Center, The Seed, SAFE Inc., Kids Helping Kids, Growing Together. Many of these "Wilderness" programs are extremely abusive as well. Betty and Mel Sembler (ambassador of Australia and Italy appointed by both Bush's) started the Drug Free American Foundation, after Straight Inc. was finally shut down. Now they are trying to push their agenda on the world through the The Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice.

Please visit Troubled Teen Industry and find out how you can help!

  • 12/1/11: Listen to Ken Anderson's show "Surviving Straight".
  • 9/15/11: Listen to Mark Levine's show "What’s Worse than Teen-Age Drug Abuse? Drug Programs Abusing Teenagers Part 1".
  • 9/15/11: Listen to Mark Levine's show "What’s Worse than Teen-Age Drug Abuse? Drug Programs Abusing Teenagers Part 2".
  • 12/22/10: Listen to Medical Whistle Blower's show "Straight Inc - Legacy of Abuse Continues".
  • 6/28/13: Trailer just released. More info can be found here.


    New 1/3/09: Public Acknowledgement & Apology of the abuse that went on at Straight Inc.

    Click here for a comprehensive set of links about Straight Inc.

    R.I.P. DJ A.M. aka Adam Goldstein, a veteran of Straight Inc.

    My (Brother's) Story
    continued below...


    He's the one on the left w/ his best friend Cory.

    Read what others have had to say over the years.
    Please leave your own comments, questions etc. Let us know you stopped by!
    I'm always interested in hearing from anyone who knew Steve, I get quite a few emails. Email me anytime at .

    Before I get into the specifics let me say a few things, the story below, was written in 2001, it is now 2014 and the madness continues. These programs still exist. After doing research over the years it's become very obvious Straight Inc. was just a profit machine, as are most of the programs that exist today. The phrase Troubled Teen Industry was coined and it is real. It is a business, an industry. People getting rich claiming they can fix what probably isn't broken. I have documents from Straight Inc. that use words like "sales" and "quota" in regards to children's lives. Something is wrong with that picture.

    There are 2 simple rules parents should follow if they feel they must send their child away.

    1. Do NOT put your child in any facility that will not let you speak to your child anytime you want to, period!

    2. Do NOT put your child in any facility that does not allow your child the human right, that even prisoners have, to contact outside council if there is any abuse that takes place.

    The kids in Straight were not prisoners, had committed no crimes, yet they had less rights than prisoners of war.

    Also please read How to Find the Best Drug Treatment for Teens by Maia Szalavitz, and consider picking up a copy of Maia's book Help at Any Cost, before placing your child anywhere.

    If you don't follow these two rules then you really don't have your child's best interest at heart. Ultimately you should consider finding an outside source, an abitrator, if you will, to sit down with you and your child to help decide the best course of action if you don't feel you can handle your child on your own. But please, consider every and any alternative before sending them away. Why have a child just to shove the responsibility on someone else. If you truly feel you have no choice, it is your responsibility as a parent to make sure the treatment is compassionate and founded on love, not TOUGH love. Tough love is a crock of shit, especially for a child that doesn't volunteer to be treated that way. And it is your responsibility to keep your child safe and out of harms way.

    Believe me, abuse in a facility like Straight will do far more damage than recreational drug use, FAR more! These aren't compassionate rehabs, they are behavior modification facilities. The same "program model" that was used in Straight Inc. to reform "druggies", is still used today to reform gay kids and turn them straight. No joke, read all about it. Again they use the SAME program model as Straight Inc. Behavior Modification has one goal, to change your child into someone else via intensive brainwashing. Since when does anyone have the right to steal someone's identity and replace it with what they think is best. A parent does not own their child, they are a guardian not a master. Do the right thing!

    Now on with my brother's story. Please understand I wrote this from the heart, so the grammar and what not may not be perfect, I just wrote it as it came to me, I did it for my brother and all those who are not here to testify about their experience in Straight Inc.

    My brother, Steve (click here and here to view some pictures) had such a beautiful spirit. He was extremely talented, he could sing, draw, he was very artistic and introspective. He started messing with drugs as a young kid with his friends. My parents tried putting him in military school and that didn't work. They got wind of Straight Inc. through a Tough Love group. Only $4,000 a year, my brother was there for 2 1/2 years. Mind you Straight didn't advertise it's evil ways. They let you know there was a WAR going on, a Drug war. They let you know your child was a victim of this war and they were your last resort.

    My parents decided to put him in Straight Inc. Straight Inc. was a very intensive, family program. Meaning the family is involved as well. At age 13, I had to go to what they call "Open Meetings" every Monday and Friday and then sibling meetings on Saturday. Can't say I enjoyed it. The open meetings on Monday weren't too bad but on Fridays they lasted up to 3 hours, then we had to break out into a sibling meeting which COULD last another 2 - 3 hours. We were usually there from about 6pm until midnight or 1am.

    When kids get put into straight they are put on phase 1. On phase 1 you stay at someone else's house. You are stripped of all your rights, you can wear no shoes, or belt and are led around by the back of your pants (belt loop) where ever you go. Can't even SHIT or SHOWER alone. You had ZERO privacy, you were NEVER alone. You could not read (except for the Bible, those hypocrites) anything, could not watch tv, could not listen to music. While staying at your host home (a home of a family who had a child on a higher phase) you were basically locked in. All the doors were locked, the windows were barred, in the bedroom the locks were reversed so you couldn't leave and the "oldcomer's" bed was usually pushed up against the door. My brother spend 2 1/2 of his 3 years on phase 1. You would think these kids had committed murder or something, most of them smoked a few joints and drank a few beers, if that. We aren't talking junkies were talking 12-15 year old kids who liked to experiment and party, for the most part.

    While on first phase you could earn Talk with your family that occur after the open meetings. When someone got a talk they would get to come meet with their family and talk to them for 5 minutes, being lead by the seat of their pants, of course, unless they were lucky enough to earn Talk & Responsibility which meant no one had to grab your ass while you were talking to your family. I think it took my brother over 3 months to earn his first one. When he did it was extremely emotional for all of us. Considering my brother was on first phase for 2 1/2 years you can imagine how little we got to communicate with him, the TALKS after open meetings are the ONLY communication you get while they are on first phase.

    Straight had this philosophy that 90% of all teenagers were druggies or potential, eventual, druggies. All druggies who started with beer, pot or mild drugs would eventually turn to more extreme drugs. All druggies would be unsuccessful and probably wind up dead. I did drugs far more than my brother EVER did, and I consider myself VERY successful today, no thanks to Straight. My brother is dead and it wasn't drugs that killed him. They convinced parents their kid would die without help and they were good at it. Dead, insane or in jail, they would say.

    On 2nd phase you got the privilege to come home at night. EVERY DAY (unless in school) from about 7am until about 9pm (sometimes much later) you were at the Straight Inc. building. During that time you could NOT talk to anyone else, nor make eye contact with anyone, other than who was talking. You had to sit up straight for over 12 hours or be kicked in the back frequently if you didn't comply. If you were caught day dreaming or even thinking about something else and not paying attention you could easily be set back a phase or even body slammed to the ground. Imagine a kid with A.D.D. in this program. In the building (a revamped warehouse) there were basically no windows, florescent lights, peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every day. You had to get permission to go to the bathroom, no real medical care, absolutely NO real therapy or counceling by licensed therapists.

    On first phase, you were taken out of school and/or any job you held. Once you got to 3rd phase you got to go back to school and 4th phase you could hold a job. On 5th phase you actually could go out on an outing with friends like a movie, WOW. Finally comes graduation, something my brother never saw. There were kids in Straight Inc. who had never done drugs (they signed a confession eventually after hours and hours of intimidation), kids with mental problems and eating disorders, as if an abusive experience like this is going to help someone with a mental disorder. That is criminal. They used mental intimidation to get some kids to admit to problems they never had so they could fill their pockets!!

    My brother was in the program for 3 years (from age 15 to 18) and ran away SEVEN TIMES! (that should be a hint). Now before I go further let me say I don't lay full blame on my mom she was ignorant as to what was happening. They sold a great package! Only recently have I told her what Steve went through, and I know it is and was hard for her to hear. She ultimately feels responsible. For 15 years I was pissed off at my brother for taking his life and leaving his family. Then I learned the truth, and to be honest I can't say I wouldn't have done the same. I don't know if I could have handled 3 years in that place. Let me give you some examples of the abuse he had to suffer.

    Nightly they had to write "Moral Inventories", better known as MI's. My mom saved these and recently I asked her if I could have them. I put them all in order and started reading. On his 60th day in straight he stated that he was very proud because he finally had a day where he wasn't physically restrained. One got physically restrained for not raising their hand. It's not like he was trying to beat people up or run away on a daily basis, he just wasn't complying. That's my brother, he was a fighter. And when I say restrained, imagine four big guys or girls, throwing you to the ground and sitting on you so you could hardly breath for 30 - 60 minutes. People got broken fingers, hands, arms, ribs, etc, often.

    They were told to make a list of all the bad "sexual" things they did when they were young. Many kids hadn't really done anything yet but they were hounded so severely kids actually made things up. And then of course it was used against them as ammunition to remind them what sluts and whores they all were. Druggies were losers, and people who went back to using drugs were useless losers who would never succeed. Yeah that's the way to cure someone, make them feel like total crap about themselves for a problem they may or may not have.

    They were not allowed to talk about anything much beyond themselves. Meaning if there were severe family problems going on, that might even have attributed to the drug use, so what. The problem was drugs, not that "you were molested as a child". These kids were severely brainwashed into thinking they were complete losers and everything was their fault. A very popular phrase "SPIT THERAPY" comes from this program too... think about it. Many of these kids had problems such as depression, or were bi-polar yet got ZERO therapy for any problems, NO psychiatric counceling. The counceling for the most part came from KIDS (brainwashed kids) who had already graduated the program, that way these greedy assholes didn't have to PAY for real help.

    Before my brother could come home on phase 2, Straight Inc. told my dad he had to get rid of the alcohol in the house, because it would be tempting. My mom and some friends thought it might be a good idea to have an intervention for my alcoholic father (he is a true blue alkie). They had the intervention at the Straight building (Straight loved to be in control), they didn't plan on putting my dad in there, the intervention just took place there. Of course if you have ever experienced an intervention you feel cornered and will usually back down and comply because of all the "friends and family" that are there. So, my dad agreed to go into a 3 week program at Fairfax Hospital to stop drinking.

    As we all know you won't stop abusing (drugs, alcohol, whatever) until YOU are ready, my dad wasn't ready. He left the program and came up with the GREAT idea that he would move out so my brother could come home. NICE DAD! So now my brother saw my dad as choosing his BOTTLE over him. Again my dad had to be ready to quit but DAMN what a slap in the face that was for me and my brother. My dad cared more about getting his buzz on then his own god damned family. I still harbor resentment today about it.

    Then, while in Straight we found out my dad had cheated on my mom with MANY different women and had another child about 7 years before. My brother got wind of this in Straight, of course a senior staff member at Straight told him, they just wouldn't let him talk about it. EVERY TIME he tried to talk about it they would tell him to focus on HIS problem. As if DRUGS are EVER the problem. Something is always behind it. So basically they told him just to MESS with him, not to help him. It breaks my heart that my brother was put through this. He was made to think he was worthless and useless and had nothing going for him. Every time he ran away he was brought back FORCEFULLY to Straight. Even punched a window out in hopes of severing his hand so he could go to the hospital instead of Straight, no such luck.

    I was around a few times when they got him at our house, it was always VERY physical (my brother was 6'3"), with friends and neighbors helping to restrain him. Granted none of them knew of the horrors of straight, but the one problem I do have is that if a kid runs away 7 times then the PROGRAM ISN'T WORKING, move on! Get him OUT! But that didn't happen. Looking at it from the perspective I now have, it really breaks my heart. Because every time my brother ran it was as if he was escaping a concentration camp, and they brought him back to that hell hole 7 times. He actually jumped from a moving car on one occasion risking his life in order not to go back. I can't imagine what he had to endure each time he came back, I would not have survived that.

    The sibling side of straight was odd as well (siblings of course being the brothers and sisters of those in the program). We would go to sibling meetings (Monday nights, Friday nights and practically all day Saturday for THREE YEARS) and have to talk and share (yuck) but I got into it at the time, as if I had a choice. If you don't go then they warn your parents you are probably on drugs too. I actually had an interview 2 years into straight because a straightling saw me try snuff in school and reported me. They thought I was on drugs, thank GOD I wasn't put in there. The folks in Straight were pretty much brainwashed into narking on anyone seen doing anything suspicious. Many kids who never TOUCHED drugs went into that program and the parents were of course told they were druggies since the counselors grilled them enough to admit it in writing.

    In siblings we had to write MI's too, we had to sing these stupid songs, although I preferred that to sharing. When we wanted to talk we have to MOTIVATE. Meaning raising both your hands in the air and shaking them like a god damned gorilla or something. The kids in the program would get restrained for not doing this. Straight was very "God" oriented *how hypocritical*, they were against ROCK music and premarital sex. I still remember friends of mine in siblings that were just BLASTED for going to a rock concert or having sex at the age of 17. I mean BLASTED. Oh it makes me sick to think about. And that was NOTHING compared to what went on to the kids INSIDE Straight.

    My brother turned 18 in September of 1985 and withdrew himself from Straight. He asked my mom if he could come live at home and she said only if he goes to AA. At the time I didn't understand why he said no. But now I do. He had been a prisoner with NO rights for 3 years (keep in mind he was on FIRST PHASE for 2 1/2 of those 3 years) and wasn't about to be told what to do. He left Straight homeless and alone and somewhat brainwashed. He was still in contact with his highschool buddy Corey, who I recently contacted. Corey was probably his only TRUE friend, him and Craig and Bubba *grin*. I saw my brother once before he died working at the Mobil gas station. He looked good but sad, I wanted to cry, wanted to go give him a big hug, but even our relationship had been affected, we had hardly seen each other in 3 1/2 years. I could tell he was happy to see me but didn't know how to react. Finally on June 30th 1986 my brother checked himself into the Econo Lodge in Springfield Virginia. Wrote a note to Corey, took some cocaine for courage, and jumped from the 4th story window. He hit his head on the concrete. He was without oxygen to the brain for over 10 minutes, which of course caused his brain to die. He was put in the hospital and kept on life support until July 3rd when we decided to pull the plug.

    I recently got to read my brother's suicide note for the first time. It confirmed everything for me. My brother never really had a self defeated attitude yet the entire note talked about what a screw up he was and how he would never amount to anything. Straight did a WONDERFUL job of drilling this into his head for 3 years. Imagine hearing for 3 years straight that if you ever smoke another joint or drink another beer you are a loser who WILL wind up dead. That is exactly how he viewed himself.

    I didn't deal with his death for the first 15 years, hardly cried and rarely spoke of it. One day, back around 2001, I decided to do some research on the net about Straight. Oh my god the stuff I found blew my mind. It goes so much deeper then what I express in this letter. Being that I was not with my brother in straight I could only share things that he went through that others shared with me. But if you visit some of the links below you will gain a better understanding of what really occurred. It was absolutely horrific and it's STLIL GOING ON TODAY!

    I will never forget in 1986 Nancy Reagan and Princess Diana came to Straight in Northern Virginia, I was in the open meeting that they came to. And then afterward publicly gave their support to the program, completely CLUELESS as to it's horrors and treatment of these kids. I was told there were certain "trouble makers" who were taken to back rooms and gagged so they wouldn't make a peep while the first lady and the Princess were there. That breaks my heart. Many people I have since talked with are just NOW (15-20 years later) coming to terms with this abuse. Many completely lost themselves and their personality and have had to rebuild. Brainwashing is REAL and no joke. It's a tried and true practice and they used techniques in Straight that have been used globally. Definitely a Clockwork Orange meets Full Metal Jacket type situation, and very very sickening to me.

    I have talked to so many people over the last few years who knew Steve in Straight, who tell me what a fighter he was, that he didn't cave and give into the bullshit they were dishing out. How in his own way (Since you weren't allowed to talk in there) he actually was able to inspire others to keep their head up and make it through. This is a bitter sweet reality for me. Straight stole my brother from me. At 13 he was taken and I never spent a moment of quality time with him again. They destroyed my family and countless others. They should be held accountable and I will keep talking about it and informing people of the truth until the day I die, if things don't change.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this information. If you were unaware of these atrocities before, my hope is it's angered you enough to at the minimum, spread the word, tell one person. Knowledge of the truth is powerful, and we have the power to end these crimes!

    In the meantime, I feel it's extremely important to get this information out. Parents have NO EXCUSES anymore when it comes to sending their kids to these programs. The information is out there for them to gain FREELY, if they only do the research. I think the most important thing is to realize that drug treatment needs to be REAL therapeudic treatment and it needs to be voluntary. I don't care if a kid is 15 years old no child should be FORCED to do something like that. If you do your research, you will see,that children have less rights in this country then ANIMALS or prisoners of war, and when it comes to private rehabs they have no rights. At the very least if you were ever faced with putting your child in a facility that was not voluntary, make sure their rights are covered by the law, meaning as much as I hate to say it, a government run institution is bound to the law and it's much harder for them to get away with these crimes then in a private rehab. If a parent doesn't love their kid enough to do the research before sticking them somewhere like that, they need to rethink the whole parenting thing. And believe it or not there are parents out there who would much rather throw their kid in a rehab then be a parent. I know that isn't the case in most situations, but it does happen and therefore the child needs the right to speak out if they are put in an abusive facility.

    Straight Suicides: This is a partial list of people who committed suicide while in straight or after they got out. Many others TRIED to take their lives. I left last names out purposely for those who wish to maintain privacy. There are several others that have died reasons not disclosed. No doubt this list will continue to grow over time. These people did not die in vain and we are not going away until all these abusive facilities are shut down and the people responsible are held accountable! *Denotes death but suicide unconfirmed.

    Springfield, VA Straight

  • Jon Guyton 1985
  • Greg Hughes 1985
  • Steve Matthews 1986
  • Kristin Stottlemeyer 1986
  • Chris Weiss 1986
  • Chris Kelly 1987
  • Duane Rolfs 1987
  • Matthew Hunter 1988
  • Charlie Griffith 1989/90
  • Greg T. 1989
  • Dan Brown late 80s
  • Ira Kauffman late 90s
  • Glen Steepleton 2000
  • Kevin Yriondo 2000
  • Kent H. 2009
  • Travis Stone
  • Paul Riffle
  • Terry L.
  • Guy
  • Teddy B.
  • Lisa D.

    Stoughton, MA Straight

  • Chris Ahlman 1988
  • Glenn Jenkins
  • Brandon E.
  • Dale N.

    Atlanta, GA Straight

  • Brandon K.
  • Tara M.
  • Theresa S.
  • Tracey G.
  • Ron H.
  • Michelle E.
  • Ben L.

    Dallas, TX Straight

  • William F. 2001
  • Vance H.
  • Shiela C.
  • Michelle K.

    Cincinatti, OH Straight

  • Jeff Leugers 1990
  • Paul Price
  • Rob H.
  • Dane W.

    St Pete, FL Straight

  • Jerry V.
  • Geoffery R.
  • Kent C.

    Sarasota, FL Straight

  • Reagan F.

    Orlando, FL Straight

  • Chris C.
  • Aaron Rockey
  • Dave Gilman
  • James Mixon (died Oct 1989 -15 yrs old- possible suicide by cop)
  • Matt Willingham
  • Chris Cybulski

    The Seed

  • Ken S.

    Others

  • Charlie P.
  • Jamie C.
  • David H.
  • Ryan K.
  • Ron F.
  • Phil W.
  • Albert P.
  • Andy M.
  • Tracy B.
  • Shirley C.
  • Brian N.
  • Bennett B.
  • Bill F.
  • Dan H.

    Note: According to statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics, in 1987 the Tampa Bay area (Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties) had the highest suicide rate in the country. It's not just because of the large number of retirees there. The juvenile suicide rate in Pinellas County rose 130% between 1980 and 1986. A 1992 study found that 1 out of 4 girls in neighboring Pasco County attempted suicide in 1991 (national average was 10%). And in neighboring Hillsborough County the juvenile suicide rate rose from 3 in 1980 to 9 by 1987. 19 youths committed suicide in Pinellas/ Hillsborough Counties in 1989 [up to nine of these were gay.] Straight operated its founding center, Straight-St Pete, in Saint Petersburg, Florida in Pinellas County from 1976 to 1993.

  • Alledged abuses at Straight, Springfield, VA
  • Virginia Letter to Deny License
  • Republicans and Straight
  • Straight Court Cases
  • Mel Sembler, Straight's Founder, buying his ambassadorships?
  • Flowchart of Straight's History

    Links:

  • Straight Inc. Alumni - The largest online group of ex-straightlings. Great for locating people as well as discussing your experiences and trauma related to attending straight and/or programs like it. All are welcome!

  • Fornits - A huge online discussion forum bringing together people who were in straight, Pathways, WWASP (World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools), Kids Helping Kids, Aspen Group, The Seed, Elan School, wilderness programs, Brat Camp, CEDU/Brown Schools, Hidden Lake Academy, Hyde Schools, Daytop Village, Growing Together/L.I.F.E., Mission Mountain School, Synanon, Kids of North Jersey and more. You may rema
    in completely anonymous on this discussion forum if you wish.

  • The Rick Ross Institute on Straight Inc. - This page contains information The Rick A. Ross Institute has gathered about Straight Inc.

  • Quackwatch - Quackwatch, Inc., which was a member of Consumer Federation of America from 1973 through 2003, is a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, and fallacies. Its primary focus is on > quackery-related information that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere. Founded by Dr. Stephen Barrett in 1969 as the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud, it was incorporated in 1970. In 1997, it assumed its current name and began developing a worldwide network of volunteers and expert advisors.

  • Teen Advocates USA - Founded in 1999 by Barbe Stamps, Teen Advocates USA is a non-profit children's rights and advocacy organization focused on monitoring the care and treatment of youth by the privatized behavior modification industry.

  • Teen Liberty - Protecting the Civil and Human Rights of Teens.

  • A Clockwork Straight -The most extensive website about straight, documenting it's past, present and future.

  • The Trebach Report

  • OVer the GW- New movie about a straight offspring (Kids Helping Kids) .

  • Surviving Straight, Inc. In their Own Words!

  • Kimberly's Story- Kimberly's Personal Story

  • Ginger's Story - Ginger's personal story.

  • The Agitator - The daily writings of Radley Balko, the author of the Fox News article.

  • SelfGrowth.com - SelfGrowth.com is the most complete guide to information about Self -Improvement, Personal Growth and Self Help on the Internet. It is designed to be an organized directory, with articles and references to thousands of other Web Sites on the World Wide Web.

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