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Sex-crime treatment center handles out-of-state youths    Some lawmakers express surprise, dismay upon learning of cases    taken by private facility
Mobile Register (AL)-February 16, 1997
Author: WIJ2173, Associated Press Writer

        By:BILL POOVEY
        MONTGOMERY  Convicted juvenile sex offenders from other states are being sent to Alabama for treatment at a private lockup in Courtland, an influx that caught some legislators by surprise.
        Rep. Jody Letson, D-Hillsboro, who has the treatment center in his district, said when interviewed Thursday by The Associated Press that he was not aware that juvenile sex offenders have been sent to Courtland for years.
        ``It's not right,'' Letson said. He said other states ``should at least take care of their own people.''
        The juvenile sex offenders from other states are being treated at the Three Springs Inc. Residential Center, where officials say security is ample and the service, first utilized in 1996 by the Alabama Department of Youth Services, is difficult to find elsewhere.
        Courtland's mayor described the center as a ``good neighbor.''
        The Alabama Legislature's Contract Review Committee this month approved DYS paying $127 a day to the Three Springs center for each sex offender it sends there for treatment.

         Legislators approving the service contract said they were unaware that juvenile sex offenders, typically teen-agers convicted in sex crimes involving child victims, are being sent to Alabama from other states.
        Contract Review Committee Vice Chairman Ralph Burke, D-Rainsville, said he was not aware that any facility in Alabama was treating juvenile sex offenders from other states.

         But Mike Watson, chief executive officer of the private Huntsville-based company that operates the center, said the treatment being provided out-of-state juvenile offenders is ``certainly no secret.''

        ``Historically we have probably had over 200 or 250 adolescent sexual offenders,'' said Dr. Pam Cook, clinical director for Three Springs. ``Alabama was one of the later states to start referring to us.''
        Ms. Cook said there were 23 juvenile sex offenders at the center Thursday, including three referred by DYS and eight other referrals from the Alabama Department of Human Resources. She declined to say how many from other states were being treated.
        Ms. Cook said the center at Courtland offers a distinctive service.
        ``There are very few places that treat adolescent sexual offenders,'' Ms. Cook said. ``It is a brand new field.''  Rep. Lee Jorgensen, R-Madison, works for Three Springs. Jorgensen said there has never been any attempt to keep secret the private company's dealings with other states.
        The center's director, Gerald Maxwell, describes it as ``lock-secure'' residential care with a licensed school and specialized therapy for males up to 18 years old. He said the staff includes nurses, teachers, counselors and security personnel.
        Maxwell said the center in north Courtland is ``an older one-story facility that back in the '60s was a nursing home that we purchased about 1990 and renovated.''
        He said it is surrounded by a ``privacy fence with barbed wire on top.''
        Maxwell said treatment typically lasts at least five months.
        He said some counties in Indiana and West Virginia have paid Three Springs as much as $300 daily for each sex offender's treatment.
        Three Springs also has a treatment operation at Madison with about 50 juvenile offenders assigned by DYS, each also at a cost to the state of $127 a day, and at Paint Rock Valley, with 15 DYS assignees each costing $62 a day.
        Those contracts also received approval from the legislators Feb. 6.
        Watson said the company has worked with the Alabama Department of Human Resources since it opened.
        State Sen. Bill Armistead, R-Columbiana, said private specialized treatment is the best hope of dealing with juvenile sex offenders.
        ``We've got to invest that kind of money in these kids to turn them around,'' he said.
        Jan Autery, administrator of the DYS community services division, said the department started making referrals to privately operated treatment facilities partly to avoid building and maintenance costs. She said the department does not send any Alabama offenders to other states for treatment.
        Ms. Autery said the Three Springs center at Courtland is the only one in Alabama that specializes in treating juvenile sex offenders.
        DYS spent about $1.7 million on all its private placements in fiscal 1996 and expects to spend ``considerably more than that this year,'' Ms. Autery said.
        The taxpayer cost of keeping juvenile offenders in state-owned facilities ranges from about $80 in boot camps to about $138 a day at Mount Meigs, the state's ``most secure'' juvenile detention facility.
        ``On any given day there are between 150 and 200 kids awaiting placement'' with DYS, Ms. Autery said. ``The majority are in juvenile detention centers operated by the counties.''
Edition: AM
Section: B
Page: 2

Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA)-July 27, 1997

        School Offers Troubled Girls New Lives
        Students Learn Self-Respect By Earning Every Privilege Under Primitive Conditions
        By JESSICA CLARKE News-Record Staff Writer DILLWYN -- By the age of 14, Carol had been expelled from school and arrested for auto theft.
        She was sexually promiscuous, used cocaine and marijuana, drank heavily and had disappeared from her Waynesboro home for three months.
        Now 15, Carol, not her real name, attends school daily, says "no" to alcohol, drugs and sex, has gained 32 pounds from regular meals and plans to be a nurse.
        And she can haul a loaded wheelbarrow along a wooded trail.
        The difference is self-respect.
        It came partly from a wake-up call of rain thumping the tent in which she sleeps. And from constructing privies, splitting wood, digging trenches, making campfires and meals and building trust.
        Trust was defined dramatically for Carol after she arrived a year ago here in Buckingham County at New Dominion School, a program for troubled teens an hour south of Charlottesville.
        She used a pocketknife to do a chore. "Honestly I never thought anybody would hand me a knife. I used to be destructive. I used to cut my shoes up, spray hair spray on my pants and catch them on fire. It's good to know they trust us here and good to know I trust myself enough not to do it anymore."
        That's a measure of success at this year- round outdoor treatment program, Virginia's only such girls' school. New Dominion's boys' school opened here in 1976.
        The girls' program started in March 1996 with a philosophy that "being able to see the effects of what you do builds self- reliance," Steve Welsh, a school coordinator, says. "We don't appreciate what we don't earn. In a sense we have to create that appreciation by having them earn everything they get."
        Including food, warmth in winter and school.
        A teen gains self-esteem "when she does something that makes her life better," he says. With the school's focus on teamwork to instill individual responsibility, "more than it deals with their problems, it really helps kids see their strengths. That kind of growth environment fills holes."
        The holes in girls here may have been created and enlarged by sexual or physical abuse, drug use, promiscuity and problems at school. The private school is unsuitable for girls who are violent, suicidal, with low intelligence or a serious psychological disorder, officials say.
        New Dominion's girls, mostly from Virginia, have tried other treatments.
        Before coming here last month, Debbie, 14, from Waynesboro, had been at a mental health hospital, residential program for troubled teens and emergency youth shelter. "I had a hard time dealing with my anger and getting along with my parents," says Debbie, not her real name.
        With Carol, Debbie and another girl here referred by Waynesboro's Office on Youth, "It's like they were laying their bodies on the railroad tracks almost literally," says Kirstin Frescoln, the office's family outreach coordinator. But the girls are bright and have potential.
        "We feel like the kids we send there are going to be safe and nurtured and cared for," Frescoln says. "That may sound strange because we're sending them out into the woods to fight mosquitoes, to live in tents. The living in the snow and the rain and with mosquitoes is kind of a wake-up call."
        Though New Dominion is licensed as a wilderness program by the state, school administrator Chris Yates says its image is different. "Nobody wanted to be associated with schools that were kind of march or die."
        Children have died at survival schools in the western United States, Yates notes. Most such schools have shorter terms than New Dominion, which has open enrollment and no set duration.
        New Dominion is licensed as a school for students with disabilities and a wilderness program by the state departments of education and mental health, mental retardation and substance abuse services. A wilderness program is a primitive, nonpunitive environment that combines learning and therapy in an outdoor setting.
        The average stay here so far has been about 14 months. Girls leave after meeting goals established when they enroll. Goals may be educational or involve relationships at home or with groups.
        Enrollment is 33 now with a capacity of 44. Of 45 girls who have enrolled so far, eight have completed the program, and several have left without finishing. The school has a waiting list, Welsh says.
        The program, with three camps now, will have a fourth soon. Each camp has a sleeping tent the girls built with pine beams, plastic sides and mosquito netting over beds. Lanterns illuminate at night because the camps, with tents for eating, cooking and nightly group meetings, do not have electricity.
        Girls, who sleep outdoors year-round, use only hand tools for their work projects. In the eating tent at Arapaho camp, a bow saw, ax, hammer, mattock and other tools lie in a corner.
        "Our idea isn't to be militaristic. Our idea is to teach them basic life skills," Welsh says. "If it's physically beyond a kid, we wouldn't accept them. You've got to have the guts to push that kid, and if you don't, you're not going to get results."
        Working as a team builds self-reliance and trust in others. "The group depends on the individual. The individual depends on the group. It's really modeled after a family," he notes.
        The "survival element" is "really good for those particular kinds of kids," Frescoln says. "We don't send kids there to be punished. We have detention and juvenile justice for that. For the most part, once they go they generally thank us" afterward.
        Most kids Frescoln refers here are behind academically but have caught up by the time they leave.
        With no more than five girls for each teacher, "I've had phenomenal results," Welsh says. "School becomes something that they want, not something they take for granted."
        At the ungraded school, where students work at their own pace, girls earn credits, a high school diploma or prepare for a General Educational Development (GED) test.
        New Dominion, owned by Three Springs Inc. in Huntsville, Ala., offers counseling for substance abuse, sexual and physical abuse and other issues.
        The school is among the most primitive camp programs in Virginia. "I wasn't sure how receptive agencies would be to sending girls to a wilderness program," says Gloria Dalton, a licensing official with the state education department.
        The school has increased its enrollment capacity, a sign of need for the program, says Dalton, whose office has had no complaints about New Dominion.
        Parents, social services agencies and the court system refer girls. The $100 daily tuition is paid by private and public sources.
        "They certainly don't come in happy. No one's happy to be here initially," Welsh says.
        Tracy, 16, not her real name, of Waynesboro had a choice about coming nine months ago. "The judge was tired of seeing my face in court" for running away from home, she says.
        Carol burst out crying in court when told she was coming here. "I guess I was just used to getting things handed to me all the time." She was under house arrest for a month while waiting to come.
        Her auto theft charge will be dropped when she leaves here next month, says Carol, whose mother is dead. She will live with the aunt and uncle she stayed with in Waynesboro before arriving.
        Among the proudest moments here for girls is earning a crest, a badge conferred by the staff as "an outward sign that kid is making changes inside," Welsh says.
        The girl's group makes a recommendation to staff about the crest based on her meeting her goals. The crest, usually earned within two to four months, allows privileges including visits home and academic classes.
        A girl who runs away from the school, is threatening or dishonest has privileges revoked and usually a work project assigned to do with a staff member.
        Home visits allow girls and their families to discuss issues as part of a transition home, Welsh says.
        For Tracy, who will leave by the end of the year, home visits are the hardest part of being here. "It's very depressing having to come back" and deal with matters that happened at home.
        "Parents are a big part of that healing process" with home visits, Frescoln says. "It's not just the kids who are doing all this work. We're also asking that family members make some changes too."
        Open for just 16 months, the program has had no recidivism, Welsh notes.
        Some mental health professionals believe it's more cost-effective to give services at an earlier age so children don't need residential treatment.
        "Many links they have with the community are going to be broken," says Joann Grayson, who teaches psychology at James Madison University. "In some cases a parent might see that as an advantage if they're not happy with a child's friends or activities."
        The transition from here to home can be difficult, with some teens pressured to revert to former friends or behavior and no support network.
        "Some kids when they integrate fall apart," Welsh says. "It's not something that's going to be pretty all the time. They need to make mistakes and learn like they do here."
        Although she "might struggle still with sex" after she leaves, Carol says, "the drugs and alcohol, that's definitely out of the picture. I know I'm going to have a struggle with my attitude. I have a big mouth."
        "You're accepted here no matter what you've done," says Carol, who thinks she'd be dead by now if she hadn't enrolled. "There's nothing people ever will judge you for. They might be a little scared of you at first. But it means a lot to have somebody accept you."
Copyright (c) 1997, Byrd Newspapers, All Rights Reserved.

Augusta Chronicle, The (GA)-October 2, 1997

 Boot camp contract awarded
        ATLANTA -- Alabama-based Three Springs Inc. was awarded a 10-year, $49.8 million contract this week to run a new 168-bed Georgia boot camp for boys.
        The camp in McIntosh County, in southeast Georgia, is being built by the state Department of Juvenile Justice for $8.6 million. It is expected to open next February.
        At capacity, it will cost $81.50 per child per day to operate the camp. On average, Juvenile Justice spends $91 per day to keep a child in a boot camp or long-term facility.
        Three Springs has operated the 30-bed Youth Detention Center in Augusta since early this year.
Edition: ALL
Section: METRO
Page: C08

Che Gookin:

--- Quote ---I was there 10 years ago, so I may be a little rusty on my stories. I once was on a trip with my group and they were all mad at me ( I was a difficult kid). Anyways, I had been begging the counselors to stop the van and let me out because I needed to use the bathroom for about 2 1/2 hours. They ignored me the whole time and by then my bladders was so full I was in excruciating pain. They happened to stop for a second to talk with the counselors in the other van and I saw a bathroom nearby. I asked if I could get out and use it since it was right there and they again ignored my pleading, so I actually had to jump out of the van and run as fast as I could to the bathroom without permission so I could get some relief. One counselor got out to chase me and when she got to the bathroom, I just told her that I had asked and asked. They tried to punish me for doing what I had to do since they weren't taking care of my needs. I recall another time when it was night time and this chick in my group who had been repeatedly raped by her own brother was having a meltdown, everyone was tired and just wanted her to shut up so we could all go back to the cabin and sleep, the whole group and the counselor were all tormenting her and being completely insensitive. Calling her names and telling her that she was stupid and needed to get up because we were all tired. No one even cared, yet she was supposed to be there for therapy.
--- End quote ---

Even an escape is a lesson    One boy said his escape made him realize how he had violated the trust of a    staff member
Mobile Register (AL)-May 7, 1998
Associated Press

   MADISON, Ala. A state-subsidized private juvenile facility went to work repairing its tarnished image after four boys scaled a fence and fled a campus work detail.
        Some media reports on the April 22 incident described the campus as a ``jail,'' bringing a sharp reaction from the facility's operators, who call it a school.
        ``We've got adults and kids working so hard to change goals and attitudes. We just took a beating by this kind of thing,'' said Mike Watson, the president and chief executive of Three Springs, Inc., which runs the campus in Madison.
        The missing boys were caught Thursday and returned to Three Springs, said administrator Paul Summer.
        One of the boys who escaped told a Huntsville Times reporter that he saw it as a challenge to try to get out. He said he was surprised at the reception he got when he returned.
        ``Well, I thought I might get sent somewhere else,'' he said. ``But they brought us back. And really the worst thing was having everyone look at you like, `I can't believe you did this. You let us down.'''
        ``The hardest was one of the ladies on the staff wouldn't talk to me for two weeks.,'' he said. `'I just finally got to talk to her last night. It made me realize how much I had violated their trust.''
        Three Springs operates 18 facilities in six states. Some are correctional, like the campus in Madison. The state pays the company from $125 to $130 a day per resident, about what it costs to house an offender in a state youth facility, Summer said.
        ``We want these walls and fences to serve as a blanket while these kids have a chance to change,'' he said. ``That's the idea, to protect them as much as the community, and give them a chance.''
        The youths sent here by the Alabama Department of Youth Services are considered medium-risk, medium-needs offenders, meaning they have committed crimes like forgery, theft, smoking marijuana or second-degree assault. Almost all have served time in other state facilities.
        Three Springs has been operating the school in Madison for about two years, putting about 200 boys through the paces of a positive-thinking, responsibility-taking program.
        The boys, with closely cropped hair and punctuating speech with ``ma'am'' and ``sir,'' voice the cadence ``one, sir,'' ``two, sir,'' ``three, sir'' as they walk down the hall.
        A chart on a wall lists the program goals and stages and the students who have progressed to each unit.
        Program director Leon Thomas said, ``This is not a place where they can walk in the door, do their time and walk out. It's not just a holding cell.''
        Those short-tempered youths who violate rules or cause problems may face a couple of hours or even three days in a segregation cell apart from the other 56 boys. Except for the segregation area and the high fences around the courtyard, the campus looks much like a small school.
        In the shop room, the boys make picnic tables to sell. They donated some to a children's playground last year. The computer lab is equipped with programs in math, English, science and other subjects to keep the boys up with their regular classes. Many of the students are studying for their general equivalency diplomas.
        They also participate in group sessions to talk about problems and work through levels of community thinking.
        To progress through the program, each student has to present a program to his group about his crime and his perspective of the circumstances leading to it.
        ``We have to get them to a point of having a realistic self-image,'' Summer said. ``They have low self-esteem. They swagger, but in truth, they could hide behind a Dixie cup. ''
Edition: AM
Section: B
Page: 7

Copyright 1998, Mobile Register.  All Rights Reserved.


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