Treatment Abuse, Behavior Modification, Thought Reform > Public Sector Gulags

Big Cypress Wilderness Institute driver kills child in crash

<< < (3/4) > >>

From the above article:

--- Quote ---Huerta enrolled in the wilderness program when he was deemed a juvenile delinquent after a school fight, Schwed said. Heurta was scheduled to complete the program on Dec. 23 and had spoken to military recruiters, Schwed said.
--- End quote ---

Part of the school to prison pipeline. When I was in school a fight might, at most, get you a paddling or detention. In middle school, if the coaches caught you fighting they'd give you boxing gloves and take you behind the gym and make you fight it out. It guess that was their brand of aversion therapy.

Another AMIkids facility that has been brought up on this forum previously:

* Baxley Wilderness
They use William Glasser's Reality Therapy, considered by some to be an offshoot of Guided Group Interaction. I've also read of Reality Therapy being one of the components of Straight's magic mix.

Oliver Keller (one of the founders of AMIkids) was quite familiar with all or most of those group-based psychological coercion methodologies when he interrupted his thesis work to take on the top dog job in Florida's juvenile corrections system. At the time, the goal was to phase out the physical coercion practiced at places like Marianna, a brutal hellhole that even had its own private (probably unofficial) cemetery for the young lives extinguished at the hands of whip- and paddle-wielding sadists.

I think Eckerd uses/used Reality Therapy too. ... 46#p345717 ... &Itemid=28

--- Quote --- ... &Itemid=28

Reality Therapy

Reality Therapy is the method of counseling that Dr. Glasser has been teaching since 1965. Reality therapy is firmly based on choice theory and its successful application is dependent on a strong understanding of choice theory. Reality therapy training is available to anyone...the first step in learning this tool is to enroll in a Basic Intensive Training.

Since unsatisfactory or non-existent connections with people we need are the source of almost all human problems, the goal of reality therapy is to help people reconnect. To create a connection between people, the reality therapy counselor, teacher or manager will:


    Focus on the present and avoid discussing the past because all human problems are caused by unsatisfying present relationships.

    Avoid discussing symptoms and complaints as much as possible since these are the ways that counselees choose to deal with unsatisfying relationships.

    Understand the concept of total behavior, which means focus on what counselees can do directly - act and think. Spend less time on what they cannot do directly; that is, change their feelings and physiology. Feelings and physiology can be changed, but only if there is a change in the acting and thinking.

    Avoid criticizing, blaming and/or complaining and help counselees to do the same. By doing this, they learn to avoid some extremely harmful external control behaviors that destroy relationships.

    Remain non-judgmental and non-coercive, but encourage people to judge all they are doing by the choice theory axiom: Is what I am doing getting me closer to the people I need? If the choice of behaviors is not working, then the counselor helps clients find new behaviors that lead to a better connection.

    Teach counselees that legitimate or not, excuses stand directly in the way of their making needed connections.

    Focus on specifics. Find out as soon as possible who counselees are disconnected from and work to help them choose reconnecting behaviors. If they are completely disconnected, focus on helping them find a new connection.

    Help them make specific, workable plans to reconnect with the people they need, and then follow through on what was planned by helping them evaluate their progress. Based on their experience, counselors may suggest plans, but should not give the message that there is only one plan. A plan is always open to revision or rejection by the counselee.

    Be patient and supportive but keep focusing on the source of the problem - the disconnectedness. Counselees who have been disconnected for a long time will find it difficult to reconnect. They are often so involved in the symptom they are choosing that they have lost sight of the fact that they need to reconnect. Help them to understand, through teaching them choice theory and encouraging them to read the book, Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom, that whatever their complaint, reconnecting is the best possible solution to their problem.
--- End quote ---

cmack: ... sons-death

Family sues wilderness camp over son's death

Posted: Jan 04, 2012 6:24 PM EST Updated: Jan 04, 2012 6:24 PM EST

The family of a Bonita Springs teen is suing the Big Cypress Wilderness Institute for the death of their son. He voluntarily enrolled in the camp to turn his life around. Instead he was killed in a vehicle crash with an employee behind the wheel.

The family of 17-year-old Daniel Huerta says the man who was driving, Johnson Atilard, had no right to be working at the camp.

The accident happened in Ochopee December 8th as Atilard drove seven teenagers back to the Big Cypress Wilderness Institute – a camp for at-risk youth.

Florida Highway Patrol says Atilard failed to negotiate a near ninety degree turn, which caused the van to flip and land in a canal.

Both Atilard and Huerta were killed.

"You wouldn't trust this person to drive you down the block, let alone 500 miles in one day," said Huerta family attorney Stephen Schwed.

Schwed says the family is suing the camp, questioning why their son's life was in the hands of a man with 15 traffic violations in the past five years.

"They allowed this gentleman to drive that day on a long trip unescorted without any other employees. The question needs to be asked why he was employed there," said Schwed.

The lawsuit reveals the Huerta family is seeking damages for funeral costs, mental pain and suffering as well as medical costs.

At the site of the crash, a memorial is all the family has left of a son the Huerta's say had so much to offer.

"He wasn't a delinquent by any means - he was trying to make a life for himself," said Schwed.

We reached out to AMI Kids, which manages the program at the Big Cypress Wilderness Institute along with the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Shawna Vercher of AMIkids, Inc. issued the following statement:

    We have been provided with a courtesy copy of the lawsuit which apparently has now been filed on behalf of the parents of Daniel Huerta.  The general corporate practice is not to comment on matters involved in litigation.  As with any lawsuit, this matter has been turned over to the appropriate individuals and entities who will be handling the lawsuit on behalf of AMIkids Big Cypress.  Recognizing the tragic nature of the loss sustained by the Huerta family, we hope that an amicable resolution can be reached with the family.

    As to the status of the relationship between AMIkids Big Cypress or AMIkids, Inc. and DJJ, we continue to cooperate with them in their investigation of this matter.  Regarding the day-to-day operations at AMIkids Big Cypress, based on the internal investigation completed to date, and in the best interest of the kids who are in our program, a new executive director has been put into place and we are in the process of naming a new director of operations.

The Department of Juvenile Justice issued this statement after the accident

    On the evening of Thursday, December 8, a vehicle carrying seven youths and driven by an employee of the AMIkids program in Collier County, a Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) contract provider, was involved in an accident in the Florida Everglades. The employee was driving the youths back to the program from an athletic event earlier in the day. Emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene and transported the driver and youths to the nearest hospital.

    The driver, Johnson Atilard, 25, of Cape Coral, and one of the youths, Daniel Huerta, 17, of Bonita Springs, were pronounced dead at the hospital. The other six youths were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

    The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) is investigating the accident and the DJJ Inspector General is conducting an investigation to determine compliance with agency and provider policies, procedures and standards.

    "All of us at DJJ are profoundly saddened at the loss of life and injuries sustained in this tragic accident," said DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters. "We express our deepest condolences to the relatives of Johnson Atilard and Daniel Huerta."

    "At this time, we remain focused on meeting the needs of the kids and staff at the AMIkids campus," added O.B. Stander, President and CEO of AMIkids. "We have provided mental health counselors to our students and staff who have been greatly impacted by this tragic loss. We extend our deepest sympathies to families during this very difficult time."

Reddit TroubledTeens:
I had no idea about AMI's history and 'Reality Therapy', thanks for the edumacation.

This article says it grew out of FOSI, is that related to The Seed?

--- Quote ---AMIkids’ roots go back to 1969 and the Florida Ocean Sciences Institute, first based at Florida Atlantic University. FOSI broke the mold of harsh treatment of juvenile offenders by offering troubled kids a structured program of education and meaningful work on marine environmental issues.

This grew into AMIkids, which now has 50 residential and day treatment programs in nine states. The Big Cypress institute is based in Ochopee in the middle of the Big Cypress Swamp, a national preserve. A non-secure center for boys deemed at “moderate risk,” it follows the FOSI model, with environmental work, this time in the Everglades.
--- End quote ---

Here's the full article: ... appen.html

An accident waiting to happen

Posted on Monday, 12.26.11

OUR OPINION: State failed to protect DJJ kids in vehicle
By The Miami Herald Editorial
[email protected]

The accidental deaths earlier this month of a 17-year-old boy and the young man charged with his care and the injuries to six other boys — all in a vehicle that plunged into a canal — were as unnecessary as they are tragic. The boys had no choice in this matter; they were delinquent kids in state custody, placed in a private school.

The driver, Johnson Atilard, 25, had incurred 18 traffic tickets in five years plus a charge to which he pleaded no contest of giving alcohol to a minor. Yet, AMIkids, a contractor to the state Department of Juvenile Justice, allowed seven boys to drive with him to an event in the Everglades with a return late at night. Mr. Atilard lost control of his Ford Expedition and crashed into a sign before the SUV drove into the murky water.

Mr. Atilard of Cape Coral and Daniel Huerta of Bonita Springs lost their lives. The other boys were treated for injuries considered non-life threatening.

Yet, when Mr. Atilard was hired he mentioned few of his violations on his April 2010 application. In February, apparently, the company had discovered his less-than-stellar record and told him by memo he was not to drive any company vehicle or to drive the boys in his own car. Seems he wouldn’t be covered by the company insurance policy and driving kids would open it to “great liability.”

Although the memo expressed hope that he would qualify as a driver when a three-year window on some of his violations lapsed, he received five more tickets afterward.

On his record were multiple charges of speeding plus hit-and-run, running a light, driving on the wrong side of the road, making an improper turn as well as “unknowingly” driving on a suspended license. One wonders why Mr. Atilard with this record could not know his license was suspended, indeed, why it had not revoked.

How then did seven of the 35 boys at the Big Cypress Wilderness Institute end up in his SUV?

AMIkids’ roots go back to 1969 and the Florida Ocean Sciences Institute, first based at Florida Atlantic University. FOSI broke the mold of harsh treatment of juvenile offenders by offering troubled kids a structured program of education and meaningful work on marine environmental issues.

This grew into AMIkids, which now has 50 residential and day treatment programs in nine states. The Big Cypress institute is based in Ochopee in the middle of the Big Cypress Swamp, a national preserve. A non-secure center for boys deemed at “moderate risk,” it follows the FOSI model, with environmental work, this time in the Everglades.

DJJ rates its work as “acceptable,” a middling score. Mr. Atilard’s work review found him “hardworking” and “dedicated.”It might be tempting to say that AMIkids simply had two lapses — a failure to investigate his background thoroughly and a failure to communicate to all staff that he was not to drive the youth in its care.

But DJJ has a higher obligation to children whom it has taken into custody. It should both ensure its investigation of this incident is complete and also that the backgrounds and driving records of all adults who have contact with children have been verified and safeguards enforced.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

[*] Previous page

Go to full version