Treatment Abuse, Behavior Modification, Thought Reform > Three Springs

My experience at Three Springs New Beginnings

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I was a resident of Three Springs New Beginnings (and briefly, Three Springs Turning Point) from May of 1997 until the summer of 1998.

I remember that shortly after I arrived, there was a pizza party celebrating the facility's certification for mental health. Before then, according to the other kids, the facility had been more like a correctional facility, and retained that structure during my time there.

The Three Springs "bible" was called PPC, or "Positive Peer Culture." It was basically a rulebook, listing the "norms" that we were to follow, like counting through the doorways and having hospital corners on our beds. It also detailed the level system. On entering Three Springs, we were placed on Orientation Level. Peer level was the highest that most people got, Pledge and Honors being the two that were most unattainable. Many people never got past Orientation Level, and spent most of their time on ROL (Reorientation Level) for "acting out behaviors."

There were certain people who were restrained all the time, who it seems like they spent more time tied to "the board" than they did standing up. There was one staff member in particular, whose initials were B.W., who would beat kids pretty regularly during the restraint process. (He also probably weighed over 400 pounds. No kid stood a chance.)

To say that I felt hopeless during my time there would be an understatement. I had very little contact with anyone on the outside world. I had no contact at all with my parents during the first few months, and then over time I was permitted to have more contact with my mom and sister. All contact with anyone was monitored. If you tried to send a letter mentioning the abuse, it was censored and unsent, and you would be placed on ROL. If you tried to tell someone about the abuse during your 8-minute phone call, the phone was disconnected immediately. Theoretically, our guardians ad litem and our social workers would have been able to have uncensored contact with us, but like most of the kids, I never had contact with my social worker or lawyer during my time at Three Springs.

I was only on ROL once, for a suicide attempt. If you take a fourteen year old kid with an abuse history who has depression, and put them into a facility where kids are abused more and they threaten to keep you until you turn 19... well, I wasn't the only one to think that life wasn't worth living.

One of the punishments that often went along with ROL was "non-com," or "non-communication." That meant you were not permitted to speak to anyone. You also lost clothing privileges and furniture privileges with certain offenses.

Groups also gave punishments to individuals, and groups were punished together for the behavior of one individual.

"School" might as well have been playtime. Since I had the privilege of attending magnet schools before entering Three Springs, I was academically ahead, and the "teacher" didn't know what to do with me, so I ended up teaching other students. Because of this, I was held back a grade in school when I left Three Springs.

The glimmer of hope in this whole mess, for me, was the relationships with particular staff members. Not all of them got sucked in by the systemic culture of abuse at Three Springs; many of the people who worked with us were idealistic, young, and just out to help kids. Unfortunately, they were few and far between, in a sea of adults who had become power-hungry tools of the system that created them.

I remember the moments of goodness, but mostly I feel sick when I think about this place. I remember the screams, the shit-smeared walls, the sound of beatings, pretending to be asleep while my roommate was being sexually abused, the caged windows, the riots. "One, sir. Two, sir. Three, sir," as we walked through doorways. Pleading with group members to conform so they didn't get beaten again. Sneaking to the kitchen in the middle of the night (at Turning Point) to eat uncooked rice because I was starving. I reported the abuse to my judge by smuggling a report out during a day pass, and that resulted in the only time I got beaten. I remember how my glasses were thrown across the room, how a staff member blocked the doorway so I couldn't escape.

It was too much to handle at 14, and it's too much to think about now at 27.

Coming to this website in the past weeks has triggered a recurrence in nightmares.

But being in a community of people who understand makes skipping over all the flaming and bullshit worth it. I think our stories are so important. What happened to us is important.

I'll try to write more soon, but this is all I've got for tonight.

Thank you for sharing your story.  I am sorry you had this experience.  I couldn't help nut notice the similarities to experiences at CEDU, Straight, and Elan, among other places.

What is frightening is that minors are under the dominion of strangers and have no voice due to the presumed incredibility of youth vs. the credibility of adults espousing to "help troubled teens."

I hope you find this to be a cathartic experience.  I still have nightmares about being back there after two decades.  Not as often, thankfully. But the crux of the dream is always the same: the feeling of powerlessness and helplessness. You really had no advocate. And even if someone extended an ear, you'd be afraid to say anything because if help was unsuccessful, hell was inevitable.

Che Gookin:
Be aware that this specific forum is fairly heavily moderated by myself. Any flaming or bullshit is deleted as quickly as possible. Three Springs has gotten far too much of a free ride over the years to let this place go to the dogs. You will have a safe place to speak and discuss your experiences. Any other survivors and such are welcome here so if you know someone who fits the bill and knows the TS program, invite them here.

I am as I always have been looking for a survivor of TS to take on the job of moderating this community. It isn't a job I feel overly comfortable with given my own spectacular exit from the TS scene. I just think we'd be more credible if we had someone a bit less colorful as myself.

While this doesn't mean I'm going to hand over the reins to the first person who comes along, I will give them over to whoever puts in some time and effort into building a community.

And god.. Noncom.. what a waste of time. I felt bad for kids stuck on that.

I'm crossposting this from another Fornits discussion: http://

--- Quote from: "Hedge" ---My parents are education professors. My mom was in early childhood education and my dad was in secondary education. I only mention that because it shows that no matter how educated parents are, they can still be baffled by teenagers and their problems.

For reasons I'll leave out of the Fornits discussion, I was suicidally depressed starting at age 13. I attempted suicide several times. My counselor tried to get me to "contract for safety." When I "broke the contract," she recommended that my parents (who were in the middle of a divorce) sign over custody of me to the authorities so that I could be placed in a state institution.

My guardian ad litem found Three Springs as an alternative to the state hospital.

When I arrived at Three Springs, I was thankful to be there. Except I learned that instead of escaping spending the rest of my life in a state institution, I could be spending the rest of my adolescence in a locked facility. I'll stop going down that road, though, and keep myself focused on my parents' perspective.

I wasn't allowed any contact with my parents.

Eventually, I had letter contact with my dad, and visits from my mom and sister.

Whenever I had a day pass and it was coming to an end, my mother and sister and I would cry and cry. My mom knew about the abuse - as soon as I was let on a day pass, I was able to be honest about what was going on, and I did. Because she was no longer my guardian, she had no authority to get me released from Three Springs. My dad wrote letters in which he fantasized about "springing me."

I went on another day pass when I was covered in bruises from the only time I was beaten there. My mom took me to the doctor to have the bruises photographed and documented.

I'm condensing a long story here. I wrote a report about the abuse I witnessed (in marker, no less, because we weren't allowed to use pens, and then we lost pencil privileges too) and I gave it to my mom to get to my judge while I was on a day pass.

After my judge got the report, I was moved to a group home on the same Three Springs campus. Then a few months later I was placed in foster care. (From staff members I remained friends with on the outside, I later found out that many of the people who had committed abusive acts were terminated as a result of the investigation. Another longer story for another day, or PM, maybe.)

My parents recognize that they made some wrong decisions that led to my time at Three Springs, and I recognize that they made the best decision given the information they had. They didn't know they were shipping me off to a place where kids were physically and sexually abused. They didn't know that they would be powerless to get me out.

Since Three Springs, my mom has used alcohol and drugs to the extent that she is barely functional. My sister doesn't bother having contact with her - it's too painful to acknowledge that we don't have a mother. But I keep in contact with her because even though she's obliterated her short term memory, she's still the woman who did everything in her power to help me. My dad just finished paying his part of the bill for Three Springs last year, eleven years after my release.

When I was a teenager, I needed help. What I got instead was abuse to myself and an emotionally and financially battered family.
--- End quote ---

Che Gookin:

Thanks for coming here to post these things. For the longest time it was just me. Then it was me and another staffer named Mbnh and then now and again we'd get a survivor or two who would post a solo post and vanish.

It is damn nice to have a survivor who wants to speak as well as you can stick around these parts.


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