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Gonzales; Torture Overseas Compared to, Cedars Academy/Aspen

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Issues & Alibis

There has been a lot of attention paid to Alberto Gonzales? record of statements regarding the use of torture in Iraq. These questions, on their own, are quite serious. There are additional troubling prospects regarding his nomination for the office of Attorney General. I do not believe that he is in any way an appropriate nominee for anything related to law enforcement policy. In the year 2001, I wrote countless letters to Senators opposing a large number of Bush?s nominees. This time around, there is only one nominee who I have very serious concerns about, and that?s Alberto Gonzales.

Alberto Gonzales? record as the primary person responsible for setting a policy which encouraged the use of torture overseas is one which not only raises serious concerns about how he would enforce the law with regards to overseas personnel, it also raises questions about how he would implement the law here in the United States with regard to law enforcement officers, and prison guards. These are extremely relevant questions whose answers are extremely important given the responsibilities with which Attorney Generals are entrusted:

What would he do to prevent police brutality? What would he do to curb the spread of rapes within U.S. prisons -by inmates to other inmates, as well as by prison guards to inmates? What would he do curb institutional child abuse?

My concerns regarding these issues run deep. I know that these issues are important both in Iraq, and here in the United States. Torture is a problem here in the United States as well as overseas. When I was eleven years old, my parents sent me away to a camp which was marketed as a ?hyperactivity treatment? camp. It was  called the Academy Of New Horizons in St. Johnsville, N.Y. The owners, Mary Pauer and Neil Schwartz, subjected me and a handful of other kids to many of the same forms of torture and humiliation which were used in Abu Ghraib- including forced nudity, being tied naked to a tree or in a hammock, being forced to stand in one place for several hours in the heat, being physically beaten, and they attempted to force us to recite humiliating things about ourselves. They kept me there for the winter for a ?school? season, and did more of the same, only in the winter the forced outdoor nudity was much more painful. This was done to anyone who didn?t allow themselves to be completely controlled by the school?s staff- they were not trying to enforce reasonable forms of adult supervisory control, but manipulative and degrading forms of control- control meant to achieve demoralization.

This was what they marketed as ?hyperactivity treatment?- they beat and abused children until the kids were afraid to move, so when they returned home, they appeared calm and the school appeared to have done its job. As an adult, now, I can safely say there was nothing therapeutic about what they were doing there, and I have scores of later opinions from medical and psychological health professionals to back that conclusion up. What they did there was torture with the goal of breaking people?s spirit for the purpose of creating the illusion that they somehow ?cured? hyperactive children  - ten, eleven, twelve year old children. I was subjected to the worst of this treatment because I ceded nothing to them and refused to let them demoralize me. The school?s NY location was apparently forced to shut down, but then they relocated to Delaware and assumed the name Cedars Academy. They are now owned by a company called Aspen Schools. The first owner, Mary Pauer, still works there. That?s the kind of accountability you have when the police in areas where there are institutions like those are either poorly equipped or unable, or unwilling to investigate the practices of institutions where torture might be taking place.

From what I know about the goings on within places like that, I know for a fact that torture is a serious problem in a wide range of institutions where people have wide latitude with which to supervise others. Any place where people can wield unchecked authority over others, is a place where abuse can occur, and it does occur with frequency in prisons, schools, camps, hospitals, and other institutions.

We need an attorney general who will take aggressive steps to crack down on institutions like those, where torture is used to intimidate and control people. Alberto Gonzales needs to somehow convince the nation that he can be trusted, that he will reliably investigate and disrupt institutions where torture is used, here in the United States, as well as overseas. If he doesn?t plan on doing that, especially in light of his track record, which he has yet to fully explain, then he definitely should not be considered for Attorney General. It would be ludicrous to suggest that safety or security is a priority if nothing is being done to ensure the safety of those of our children who can easily be abused ? where their parents are unable to see how their children are truly being treated- where the only people who could possibly do something to protect these kids are the law enforcement officials whose actions, on some level, are partially the responsibility of the Attorney General. Mr. Gonzales needs to explain what he intends to do to stop that kind of activity here in the United States, as well as abroad.

He owes that to the soldiers in Iraq, to the families here at home, and to the American children who currently suffer as victims of institutional torture and abuse, who may have been watching television when the torture in Abu Ghraib was first publicized, the children who then must have thought their own situation truly hopeless if that type of treatment is something their own government seems to endorse. Those kids need to know that the next attorney general will at least attempt to find out if they are being abused or tortured, and put a stop to it. They await Mr. Gonzales? answers.

Mike Schiller is an editorialist, poet, and founder of an internet based policy analysis group, Dem-Elections-Strategy

©2004 Michael A. Schiller
Written by Mike Schiller

Permission automatically granted to reprint and/or republish this article, as long as the article is not edited and the authorship information remains intact.

[ This Message was edited by: Deborah on 2005-01-27 11:29 ]

Help me Deborah, I just enrolled my son at Cedars Academy in Delaware and then our first phone call he is crying a begging me to come get him.  He says the staff tell lies and not to believe them.  He just completed a year at another Aspen program and this was supposed to be a move up...but seems worse.  Are there any good boarding school for children with severe learning disorders out there. I am so scared for him.

This the is desparate mom again. I guess from reading there are other people experiencying this trauma

Sorry I missed your request Anon Mom.

I can't tell you what to do... but I'll tell you what I would do.

Personally, I'd take crying and begging seriously. I would demand that they set up an UNMONITORED phone call with my son, so he could speak freely. Confirm with him that no one is in earshot.
Ask enough questions to determine the extent of what's happening, letting him do most of the talking. I'd ask clarifying questions, but nothing leading. If I were convinced that things weren't kosher, I'd hang up, telling him to hang in there... I'd see what I could get done about what was happening. Then I'd drive there immediately and pick him up, unannounced. Then file a complaint with CPS, the local sheriff, and anyone else who might need to know.

If they wouldn't allow me to speak to my son unmonitored, I would be there before the end of the day.

I wouldn't send my child to any facility that limited contact or visits. Period. Depending on his 'disabilities' there are probably resources in your own community. Goggle his disability and see what returns.

Deborah, Thanks for replying so quickly. We spent 3 years in the publick school system with failure after failure with IEP. Then he refused to go to school, so I chose what I thought was a great school, well, better than sending him to a Residential Treatment Center.  He did progress and appeared to be thriving there until a couple months ago. Then the school called and wanted to transfer him to Cedars. We have nothing in our small county to offer him. My gut instinct tells me that something is not right. He is 16 and has to go to school by law.  He does have problems, but this school seems to be making it worse.


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