Treatment Abuse, Behavior Modification, Thought Reform > Research Banditos

3 Springs Research Project-Active

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Che Gookin:
I'm collecting statements from kids I've run into over the years.

Meeter: Che
Geeker: Che, Kathy, and others.
Hunter: Che

--- Quote ---so a personal statement from an actual face- not some anonymous first name like they use for their testimonials.
if the pictures of my face don't show my hopelessness that i was feeling, then maybe my words can. my name is j___ g______. i spent ten months in three spring's paint rock valley treatment[sic] center. every day for ten months i woke up at six oclock to no running water and, often, all of the drinking water frozen solid. while three springs maintains they are not a "boot camp", nor do they condone "unhealthy" practices as such, but the fact i underwent ptsd treatment and was prescribed prazosin for nightmares as a direct result of the post traumatic stress disorder i developed as a result of three springs.(verifiable, i'll try to upload a picture of the label)
three springs embodies everything they tried to prevent. those who were physically superior were able to take advantage of those who tried to work through their problems. fear was used to intimidate us into assimilation, and if that doesn't sound enough like soviet russia, read into their 'medicine wheel' and 'creed'. these were spouted off on command so often that now, three years later, they still top my mind in all of their unnecessary glory.

let me finish the rest later,ummk?
--- End quote ---

Rough draft^ he is still working on it.

EDIT: by Psy: redact survivor name at request

Che Gookin:
My own personal statement:

--- Quote ---My Time At Paint Rock Valley Boys

I worked as a counselor at Three Springs of Paint Rock Valley Boys from 2002 to 2004. During that time I participated in abusive acts and  witnessed even more. My actions have brought me a great deal of personal pain and remorse. It wasn’t until after I was terminated for what essentially was the exercising of poor judgment that I came to realize the full extent of what I did and saw. Everything must have a start and my story started with the extremely poor training I received, moved on to the appalling lack of supervision, and is rounded out by the horrible conditions of the facility. I started working at Three Springs a few weeks before Christmas at the end of 2002.

At my time of hire I spent four or so weeks going through the Three Springs 100 hour new employee training. During this time I went to classes all day and spent time with a group at night. The training program was inadequate to say the least. Most of it went over the various levels of the stages system, the medicine wheel,  and creed.  We received minimal medical training, minimal training in how to deal with violence, minimal training in dealing with people who were upset. All in all we received very little useful training to prepare us for covering the group we were being trained to cover.

Once training was complete, and we passed out tests, which most of us cheated on, we were given our group assignments. My group was the group of Lisicha. This group was the youth group that consisted of boys from the ages 10 to 14 or so. My first introduction to Lisicha involved a restraint in the middle of the dining hall during lunch hour between two of my training classes. Restraints were something that I learned happened  quite frequently in Lisicha.

My first restraint with my group occurred at night after a young man attempted to hit my co counselor. Nearly 10 restraints later the group was finally willing to calm down enough to go to bed. At some point it became apparent that the traditional methods of SAMA (Satori Alternatives to Managing Agression) were pretty useless. The methods taught to me by Three Springs took to long, were to awkward, and normally resulted in the restraints taking longer. At this point I began to use what could be termed as Shock and Awe, which actually works pretty well if your goal is to pound a group into passive submission.

Shock and Awe retraints are when I would slam the kid into the ground as hard as I could to force him to submit in the shortest amount of time. Luckily for the boys no one was seriously physically hurt. The worst injury incurred during a restraint was a broken collar bone. That was more from the location of the restraint that the force, which was fairly minimal but on a rocky trail. My Shock and Awe methods of restraints rarely seemed to raise an eyebrow. I used these techniques of rendering a boy submissive in public on a regular basis in front of other counselors, supervisors, family worker, and unit directors. I think during my time I was written up twice for improper restraint during the performance of roughly 300 restraints and very few of them by the book.

The book also called for the proper filling out of paperwork. However, in my experience, when you have 16 incident reports to fill out you tend to gloss over the details and do your best to justify your actions. I often lied on my progress reports and heard of other counselors doing the same. Once during an incident involving a restraint in where I restrained a boy in Lisicha's cabin for hiding under a bed I wrote up the boy for attempting to run away. Not a single eye brow was raised about the report or the incident despite the fact it was pretty obvious I was blatantly being dishonest to protect myself. My embellishments on incident reports didn't seem like such a serious problem at the time as my group was experiencing such severe behavioral problems that everyone seemed to think that the number of restraints were justifiable.

The group’s behavior was so up and down that multiple restraints became the norm. During one particularly sickening day I performed 26 restraints with no help from my co workers. One supervisor even called over on the radio and asked me to keep my group quiet as it was disturbing a meeting. At some point I had to beg for someone to come relieve me so I could use the toilet. Restraints became so common in Lisicha that I became sort of trigger happy. If a kid even twitched to hard it ended up in a restraint. I remember restraining a kid for using the f-word once and nothing was even said to me. If my restraints were bad some of the supervisors and other counselors were worst. I’ll describe this more later on in this statement. I began to suffer physically and mentally from the stress, but it was the boys suffered the most through the variety of consequences they endured on that day and others like it.

Consequences  at Three Springs are designed to bring about compliance of an individual or group. Here is a list of the commonly used ones:

1) sitting on a rock all day
2) Group Ignore- the child was completely ignored by his group and had to cook al his own food and sleep in a tent.
3) Primitive: This is where the boy was kicked out of his group completely and forced to live in his own campsite, cook his own food, and was not allowed to speak to anyone.
4) quiet time- not being allowed to talk
5) standing quiet time- not being allowed to talk and standing quietly
6) personal fire drill- the child was given a few fire drills randomly through out the night for behaviors in the day.
7) Building Ban- not being allowed in the buildings
8) Campsite- the whole group was made to eat and cook on their campsite, get up earlier, and not allowed to talk on campus.
9: Manure therapy- shoveling horse crap at the horse barn all day
10) Personal Gott- being forced to carry a 5 gallon jug of water
11) Work projects- this could vary from chopping wood to cleaning their campsites

One of the stranger consequences I witnessed involved a young man who was made to carry his own gott of water everywhere and being made to walk 100 poles a day until he began to comply with the program. Walking poles was where they walked the distance from 1 telephone pole to the next and then back to count as 1 lap. Another consequence that struck me as odd involved a blunder on my own part.

I was caught making three of my own group members carry cinder blocks around the bleachers by the baseball field. One of the higher ups from the Huntsville office witnessed it and complained that I wasn’t making sure the consequence had some meaning attached to it. She later told me that I should have gotten the boys to move the whole pile of cinder blocks so they clean out underneath them. According to her this would have given the consequence some sort of legitimacy. Personally, in retrospect, I think both her and my consequence were nonsense.

More nonsense that went on regularly at Three Springs was treatment team. Each week the counselors(no formal psychological training), the family worker(no formal psychological training, and the supervisor(no formal psychological training would all get together and assess the progress of the members of their group. Most of these treatments did not involve the facility psychologist. Of course this was the same psychologist the kids saw a mere 20 minutes or less every month.  During this meeting interventions were created to help move the boys through the program.

One of the worst aspects of treatment teams was the evaluation of topics that the boys did every week. These topics done in Nightly were examined and discussed. I frequently witnessed the boys being told that they weren’t being honest enough about why they are in the program. Often, I believe anyway, the boys resorted to gross exaggeration to bluff their way past treatment team to satisfy the mania for introspection.  Another problem I witnessed was the living conditions.

Three Springs houses the boys in campsites that have three to five buildings. These buildings include the cookshed, woodshed, nightly site, cabin, and trunk room. More often than not counselors allowed their groups to leave their campsites in a disgusting state. I often found myself sleeping in a cabin that smelled so vile that it was not uncommon for me to sleep with my head out the door. I regularly found rat feces on plates, clothing, in trunks, under beds, and on shelves. Shower houses tended to have green slime and mold on the walls and a frequent complaint was mice and rats in the pantry in the kitchen.

The kitchen presented another item of concern during my stay at Three Springs. The food cooked and served  by the kitchen staff with the assistance of the boys was often disgusting and unappetizing. Many of the boys in my group complained of weight loss due to not being able to eat. I’m not a finicky eater so loosing weight wasn’t an issue  for me. However, several residents who had medications that increased or suppressed their appetites tended to suffer from the lack of quality food. Weekend meals often served sandwiches with white bread, baloney, and potato chips as a nutritious meal. Poor food lead to one of the most violent incidents I witnessed at Three Springs.

I was sitting at my table talking to the kids in my group when a resident grew angry about something and started lashing out at others. Three counselors restrained him, very painfully on the floor in the corner. I later asked him what got him angry and he said that he was just sick and tired of eating crappy food and being hungry all the time. This wasn’t the only incident of violence that occurred at Three Springs.

Here is a list of incidents that occurred during my time at Three Springs:

1) A counselor at the County Choices program restrained a kid with such force he cracked the wooden cabin floor.
2) A counselor drove his shoulder into the stomach of a kid who was being carried down a hill by two others and performed what he termed a T-bone maneuver.
3) A unit director picked a boy up by his feet and banged his head on the ground.
4) Another unit director picked a kid up and swung him around like a rag doll and then apparently threw the kid.
5) I jumped over a table and restrained a kid with such force I ended up with a knot on my head and bruised knee.
6) Another counselor regularly used to tell others that the best thing to do on your first day in group was to , “boom a kid” to get them to behave.
7) A female unit director bragged of suplexing a kid.
8) A supervisor restrained a boy on the concrete and deliberately ground the boy’s elbows and knees into the concrete to inflict pain on him.
9) Another supervisor performed a running tackle on a boy for cursing at another staffer.
10) I restrained a boy in the gravel with such force it left his imprint in the ground.
11) I personally witnessed a staffer use a choke hold on a boy.
12) Another staffer bragged that he found banging a kid’s head on the concrete a good way to settle them down.

There is so much more I could add, but the sheer number of incidents makes it hard to sort threw them all. At night I sometimes have nightmares about what went on at Three Springs. Guilt was what led me to examine myself and my actions. It was remorse that made me want to do some sort of penance for what I did and what I didn’t do. My biggest regret to this day isn’t what I did, but the fact that I remained silent while working at Three Springs. It wasn’t until I was terminated for handing out a consequence that resulted in a young man sustaining a minor abrasion to his nose that I was forced to see the bigger picture.

My temination forced me out of a world where abuse on a weekly to daily basis seemed routine and part of the job. It forced me into the real world where such things are not tolerated. It wasn't to long before I began to feel a huge sense of guilt over all that had transpired. I don't hate Three Springs for terminating. Quite the opposite as I'm more than willing to thank them for forcing me out of such a soul destroying operation. Many people have claimed Three Springs saved their life with the time they spent there. I claim Three Springs saved my life by forcing me to leave. This action helped me to move onto a healthier place.

It took me awhile to readjust to not waking up every hour, not living with the constant hyper-awareness of living with 10 young boys, not suffering panic attacks, not throwing up from those panic attacks, not suffering constant knee and back pain, and finally not being in a place where hurting people appears to be part of the job as long as it is in the name of treatment. I offer no excuses or explanations as to why I didn't report what I witnessed other than to say it never once occurred to me to do so during my twenty two months of employment and nor was it ever overly encouraged of us to act in our mandated reporter roles as we all should have been doing. This at times has added to my guilt factor, but my sense of remorse and guilt for what I have done and not done has more or less been exorcised after making contact with some of the boys I worked with.  To date all that have been contacted have all accepted my apologies and we have maintained a friendly relationship.

It makes me happy to know that despite Three Springs and the hell they endured, those wonderful young men have grown up to be better a better sort of man than I ever have or will be.

--- End quote ---

rough draft 1st copy^

3rd revision

Che Gookin:
Another ex-staffer I know who gave me permission to repost this off Heal:


Please keep me Anonymous.

Everything in my statement is true. I give HEAL permission to use my statement. The following is a true statement of my experience at Three Springs as an EX-Counselor for their Georgia Girls program.  The programs in Georgia, both for girls and boys, have been shut down by Three Springs due to withdrawal of state funding for the programs in 2006.  Other Three Springs programs remain open and are equally as abusive and dangerous as the ones in Georgia.  The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) funded the Georgia programs.  Other Three Springs programs are privately owned and operated.


All the children who attended the Georgia programs were legally in the custody of the state for a period of 2 years. Three Springs had two separate programs, Short Term and Long Term.  The Short Term program was dubbed the “emergency shelter”.  This program usually lasted between 1 and 90 days and usually had residents who were awaiting placement in a Long Term program either at Three Springs or elsewhere in the state.  A small percentage of the residents who attended the Short Term program were actually sentenced for a period of 60-90 days in confinement.  We were used to alleviate the overcrowding in Youth Detention Centers (YDC).  The Long Term program was usually 6 months to 2 years, with the average stay being 1.5 years.  The Long Term program had different expectations of residents than the Short Term program but similar goals for rehabilitation.  Average group size of the Short Term program was 10-15 residents and of the Long Term program 8-12 residents.  Typical number of counselors on duty in the Short Term program was 2 at a time with occasional days of 1 counselor on duty at a time.  The Long Term program found counselors alone with the residents most of the time with occasional days of 2 counselors at a time.  Most of the girls were in the programs due to truancy from school, stealing, drug, and alcohol use.  The age range was 11-18 yrs old.


I worked for Three Springs from May of 2004 to September 2004.  Initially I was taken in by their website.  It was appealing and looked to be a good program.  I agreed to relocate and work for them after college graduation.  I did not know it would be emotionally and psychologically as well as physically damaging.


I worked for the Georgia Girls in their Short Term program.  Training lasted 1-2 weeks (I really don’t remember much as I’ve blocked most of it out.)  During training, we were taught how to de-escalate a situation and restrain residents.  As counselors, we were required to stay overnight on campus during the length of our shifts.  Our shifts usually lasted from 2-4 days with some exceptions being 5 days or more.  The days began at 5:45am and ended whenever the residents would decide to quiet down and go to sleep, usually anywhere from 10:30pm until 1:00am on some nights.  Average amount of sleep obtained on any given shift after paperwork was done every night was approximately 2-3 hours.  Counselors were not allowed breaks during the day and had to be with their group of residents at all times.  Calls for supervisors to relieve counselors for short bathroom/sanity breaks often went unheeded.


The everyday schedule included meals, school, therapy, vocational, and recreational time.  The meals consisted of pre-packaged easy to prepare things like hamburger helper, tuna helper, or other simple foods.  Usually calories were high to meet the state standards, but the quality of the food was poor with very little fresh vegetables and fruit to supplement the diets of the residents.  Counselors were expected to cook for the residents.  Occasionally residents earned the right to cook for the group, but that was rare.  Qualified teachers did school on campus.  It was mostly an independent study and the residents were expected to complete material on their own.  The supervisors or counselors, most of whom did not have psychology degrees, usually oversaw therapy.  Actual face time with a qualified psychiatrist averaged 30 minutes per month and it was usually an adjustment of the medications residents were placed on.  Therapy at Three Springs usually consisted of watching a couple movies (28 days and some Lifetime movie on rape) and discussing the movies.  Vocational time was where a majority of the focus was spent.  “Voc time” as it was called by many of the counselors usually consisted of manual labor done by the residents and counselors.  Mowing lawns, picking up trash, cleaning the cabins, weeding, and raking were just a few of the activities performed by residents.  Counselors typically supervised and assisted occasionally.  Recreational time was usually limited to 30 minutes to an hour and was a sport such as basketball or kickball, although most of the time our time was limited.   Most of the time, the recreational activity was an exercise tape that played while the counselor supervised and made a meal, usually lunch or dinner.


Some of the common interventions included:


Run Risk:  A consequence and intervention implemented when a resident decided to make a break for it and run.  Usually involved wearing an orange reflective construction vest and remaining within 10 feet of staff at all times.  On rare occasions, or when there were no more vests available, the resident would be required to wear an orange prison jumpsuit.  Due to the nature of the jumpsuit, the resident was denied pants or shorts during the period of time they dressed in the jumpsuit.  The jumpsuit was usually only worn by the highest risk offender (any resident who had been on run risk and had decided to take off a second time).  Usually if they were placed in the jumpsuit, they would also have to be on “Contact Buddy.”


Contact Buddy:  A popular intervention that included the resident wearing the orange jumpsuit.  The resident would be denied their privilege of free movement.  They, or a piece of their clothing that was attached to their bodies, had to be held by staff at all times.  This was usually implemented with staff holding the tee-shirt the resident wore at all times.


Suicide Precaution:  A safety measure taken for when residents are threatening to harm themselves or others.  Bathroom protocol included making them strip to their underwear, making them keep one hand visible to staff at all times, and the resident having to sing or keep talking to ensure the resident wasn’t doing something that would harm themselves.  This procedure was done in front of another resident for safety of the counselor on duty.  The resident on suicide precaution would also have to run their fingers under their undergarments in order to ensure nothing had been hidden there.  During showers, the residents on suicide precaution had to shower with a counselor watching.  The shower curtain covered them, but the middle loops had been taken down so the counselor could observe their face and neck while in the shower.  The counselor also had to hand the resident their soap and shampoo.


Many of the residents admitted to the Three Springs program were violent and aggressive towards counselors and each other.  I left Three Springs shifts with bruises on my arms from attempting to restrain a resident due to violent outbursts.  The residents had threatened me.  There were days where I had to continually watch my back.


The administration of the facility was equally as unresponsive.  The administration refused to look out for the safety and health of ANY of the counselors employed at the facility. Most of the feedback given to counselors was in the form of negative criticism with the threat of termination.  The administration also failed to look at possible alternatives for poor program performance.   When I went to them with concerns and solutions, I was shot down with “We can’t do that because” or “That’s not a good idea because”.


A fellow counselor for the Long Term program had been beaten up by one of the residents.  The resident kicked, punched, hit, and bit her. The resident also used a broomstick or metal pole to strike the counselor.  The counselor had to be removed by other counselors and she promptly fell into unconsciousness.  The administration refused to let her go to the hospital and she had to continue working her entire shift.


Prior to my employment, there had been a riot at the school on campus.  It resulted in a cabin getting shut down and residents shuffling to other cabins as well as leaving the facility.  It ended up overburdening counselors and overcrowding cabin rooms.


There were other things that occurred too.  A counselor locked herself in the bathroom because she didn’t want to be with the residents. She was scared to be with them. She was having panic attacks due to the stress of the job and being around the children.  Additionally, two counselors walked out mid-shift. Both counselors walked out while I worked at the facility.


I once sat for 26 hours with 2 kids refusing to do anything with no instructions on how to deal with them and approximately 4 – 5 minute bathroom breaks.  I did receive a break when night staff came in to watch the residents overnight, but the next morning, I was right back in the same room.

After being employed for one month, I began having panic attacks.  They progressively worsened and I ended up crying for 6-8 hours at a time. I could not bring myself to stop crying at times. When I would get it under control, I would be good for about 1 or 2 hours then go back to crying. I couldn’t mentally function or physically bring myself to function.  I was so tired and exhausted mentally and physically that eventually I just shut myself off from everything and everyone. I became a zombie. The stress finally got to me and I quit September 10th 2004 and it’s a decision I DO NOT regret.  I am ashamed that I worked for a place such as Three Springs and allowed my safety and common sense to be overruled for so long.

--- End quote ---

Che Gookin:

Consolidation articles

Che Gookin:

--- Quote ---

Written in 2001

Story ran on Friday, September 14 2001
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (AP) - When Dionte Pickens? body was found, it was hanging in a closet of a juvenile lockup, a black leather belt looped around the 14-year-old?s neck.

His mother believes that her child?s death last October - whether a suicide or a murder - was the result of inadequate supervision at the for-profit Three Springs detention center in Tuskegee. A lawsuit contends Pickens died while his designated supervisor was playing a video game.

The death and the lawsuit have raised questions about the treatment of juveniles at the center, run by Huntsville-based Three Springs Inc., which operates 21 juvenile programs in Alabama and six other states.

The state?s welfare agency has removed about a dozen teens who were assigned there, but the state Department of Youth Services has 25 juveniles at the Tuskegee site and 49 at a center Three Springs operates in Madison.

The state deputy chief medical examiner concluded - after an autopsy and an investigation - that Pickens? death in the cinderblock room was a suicide.

The Alabama Bureau of Investigation referred its investigation report on Pickens? death to the Macon County District Attorney?s Office. Deputy District Attorney Kenneth Gibbs said an investigation was continuing.

Several privately run facilities that treat young offenders have been criticized for poor supervision and management in several states, including centers in Colorado and Louisiana.

Wendy Brooks Crew, a lawyer for Pickens? mother, said Pickens had been locked up in Tuscaloosa for truancy when he was transferred hundreds of miles to the Three Springs center at Tuskegee. Crew said Pickens? mother was not informed in advance about the transfer.

Pickens? mother, Louisa Dunn, claims Three Springs Inc., which is paid $121.50 a day for each of the youngsters assigned to the state it keeps in Tuskegee, either allowed Pickens to be murdered by hanging or allowed him to commit suicide.

The suit contends that a doctor at Three Springs had recommended within three days of Pickens arrival that he have a psychological evaluation as soon as possible.

Instead, Pickens was "housed in a room with non-breakaway hardware" and allowed to have a belt, Crew said. Pickens never received a psychological evaluation and his death was more than a month after his arrival, she said.

Three Springs knew that Pickens, who was taking anti-depressant and psychotropic medication, had previously attempted suicide, Crew said.

Three Springs attorney Marc Givhan said the company is saddened by the death, but would not comment beyond that.

While the state continues to use the Tuskegee facility, state Human Resources Commissioner Bill Fuller said that after he heard about Pickens? death, he removed all of the "12 or 13" abused and neglected teens who were assigned there.

"The atmosphere was generally oppressive for my children," Fuller said.

"My primary reason was not the recent death so much as the physical conditions that my boys were exposed to day-to-day, a confinement atmosphere," he said.

--- End quote ---


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