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Crisis' Continued:

Red flags reach Milwaukee

Warning signs went up in Milwaukee County in the fall of 2014.

Robin Dorman, the public defender in charge of the Milwaukee office, discovered one of her clients wasn't being sent to class or receiving treatment at Lincoln Hills. She soon learned that inmate wasn't the only one.

“To me, it was a complete breach of trust," she said. “It’s called Lincoln Hills School, and our kids weren’t receiving an education.”

Dorman alerted Children's Court Judge Mary Triggiano and Tom Wanta, who was in charge of delinquency services for Milwaukee County.

Dorman soon found out about allegations of abuse, fights and using segregation even when a psychologist recommended against it.

“Management is aware of all of these problems. Typically, when management becomes aware of a problem, the problem just gets worse,” one of Dorman's colleagues wrote in a memo.

Dorman passed that memo onto Milwaukee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern, who forwarded it to the Department of Corrections.

The department launched an investigation but hit a snag because Dorman said she couldn't provide more details, citing confidentiality rules. Internal investigators said they couldn't move as fast as they would have liked because they didn't have names or dates.

Nevertheless, corrections officials were soon convinced crimes by staff had occurred at Lincoln Hills. In January 2015, aides to Attorney General Brad Schimel agreed to launch a criminal probe.

Seven months later, Corrections Secretary Ed Wall got a personal alert that problems were continuing. On a visit to Lincoln Hills, teens thronged around him in the library.

"They're torturing us," they told Wall.

"Numb about the whole situation"

On every one of his shifts as a guard, Johnson would sharpen his 911 knife  — a fishhook-shaped device workers use to cut ligatures if inmates attempt to choke or hang themselves. He used it so much it would quickly dull.

“There were so many suicide attempts on the girls’ side that you would lose track,” Johnson said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel.  “One girl would hang herself, all the sudden you’d have four or five copycats."

It wasn't just suicide attempts. Inmates would harm themselves in other ways, cutting themselves with anything they could find and sometimes jamming pencils or plastic silverware into their wounds to make them worse.

“To work in a place like that and deal with so many tragedies, you do become sort of numb about the whole situation," Johnson said.

Johnson quit in January amid an investigation into inmates being injured. He contends he did nothing wrong.

Oct. 1, 2015, was a tense night in one of the cottages at Copper Lake. The workers weren’t getting along, and the inmates were screaming at each other.

Guard Lisa Brener turned on a large fan to drown out the arguments and try to calm the girls to sleep. Some complained they were cold.

One 15-year-old girl said if the fan stayed on, she was going to “tie off” — slang for hanging or choking herself. Guard Scott McKenna saw on a camera that the girl, who was in Copper Lake for robbery, had covered herself with a blanket.

With a supervisor's permission, he went in the room and took the blanket to make sure she wouldn't hurt herself under it.

Five minutes later, she was covered with a mattress. This time, McKenna didn't ask permission to go into her room.

“You’re not my daddy,” she screamed when he walked in. “You can’t tell me what to do."

The girl stood up suddenly. McKenna, who is almost a foot taller, pushed her against the wall with his hand on her neck, the girl and two guards later told investigators. The girl looked petrified but didn’t say a word, Brener said.

McKenna told investigators his hand was just below the girl's neck, on her clavicle.

McKenna threw her mattress into the hall. As the girl came up to him, he pushed her back with his forearm, according to investigators' reports.

The girl’s mother learned of the matter from the girl and a social worker, the mother said.

“I don’t want anybody putting hands on my kids, especially ones who are supposed to be protecting them,” she said.

The next day, McKenna was put on paid leave. He stood by his decision to go into the girl’s room to get the mattress even though he didn’t have permission.

“I would rather be explaining this than why a kid is dead,” McKenna told internal investigators.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Department recommended District Attorney Don Dunphy charge McKenna with child abuse and strangulation. Dunphy consulted with Schimel's office, but more than a year later has not pressed charges. Dunphy said he hasn't been kept up to date on the matter since the FBI took over the overall investigation of Lincoln Hills.

The Department of Corrections fired McKenna but reversed course and allowed him to quit.

In a settlement with the state, McKenna is banned from seeking employment with the Department of Corrections again. Under the deal, he also got $6,000 from taxpayers.

Improper training

Assaults at the prison often were linked to poor training  — including by Lincoln Hills' use-of-force expert.

For 10 years, Dusty Meunier was the lead trainer at Lincoln Hills, but he trained staff improperly, investigators found. Security Director Bruce Sunde and Meunier's other bosses either didn't notice or didn't do anything to stop him.

In teaching workers how to break up fights, Meunier showed a video of a guard putting his knee in the back of a young inmate  — without telling them the technique was improper and could cause suffocation or death. Investigators later found the knee-to-back move was routinely used by staff.

Meunier was supposed to emphasize to workers that they needed to be careful when handling juveniles because their bones could break more easily than those of adults. He didn’t do that.

Meunier didn't contact nurses when inmates were injured. He changed techniques for securing inmates without getting permission from his superiors. He reviewed incidents that appeared abusive but deemed them appropriate. He didn't require staff to file reports documenting when they used force despite policies that require them.

Meunier himself was ultimately found to have violated work rules in 16 incidents between 2013 and 2015. He was fired in May 2016.

In one July 2015 incident, Meunier led a group of guards as two of them blasted a dorm room with pepper spray after an inmate barricaded himself inside.

The cloud of pepper spray was so thick that it drove several staff members from the area. Meunier told the inmate to lay on the floor when he was ready to be removed. Staff took his roommate out but left the inmate inside on the floor.

He was left in the room with no one watching for almost six minutes. When the guards returned, they had him crawl into the hall because the pepper spray was so thick in the air they didn't want to enter the room.

A review conducted months later concluded the incident was "abusive since it appears (the boy) was intentionally left in the room for this period of time and that (he) was willing to cooperate with staff."

Retirements followed by raid

The Justice Department investigation had been going on for almost a year when Evans' foot was mangled in the door. Two agents were on it, but only worked it part time.

Asked if more resources should have been dedicated to the investigation early on, Schimel said, "Yeah. Hindsight's 20/20."

The pace of the investigation picked up when Evans was hurt. Within days, state Department of Justice agents began seizing video from the institution's recorders.

Prison leaders didn't know what was going on.

“What is this all about?!?” Deputy Superintendent Wendy Peterson wrote Ourada, the superintendent, in a Dec. 2, 2015, email when she learned of the Justice Department visit.

For more than 15 years, Ourada and juvenile corrections director Westerhaus had integral roles in running Lincoln Hills. Now they were left out of the loop — and wouldn't get back in.

“Not sure what this is about,” Westerhaus emailed Ourada and Peterson when they learned guards from adult prisons would be brought in to monitor Evans, instead of Lincoln Hills staff.

Westerhaus and Ourada earlier had announced they would retire. But they abruptly moved up that timetable, retiring within days of Evans' foot being crushed.

They received their full benefits and were granted special permission to immediately cash out their unused leave time, with Westerhaus receiving $35,000 and Ourada $66,000.

Two days after they cleared out their offices, about 50 state law enforcement agents and attorneys descended on Lincoln Hills. Within weeks, they would hand the investigation over to the FBI.

Agents cut off the phone lines and told workers coming off their shifts that Saturday morning that they could not leave.

Prison staff members aren’t supposed to bring cellphones into the institution, but some did. They called and texted friends and family to tell them what was going on.

The agents interviewed workers and remained on site for weeks to talk to about 250 inmates. Eventually, they would conduct hundreds of hours of interviews.

Even as the raid unfolded, calamity flared in the prison. Hours after agents arrived, staff at Copper Lake found a 15-year-old inmate unconscious. The girl had taken pills and tried to hang herself.

The raid and the incident that led to it blindsided Milwaukee County officials, who had been given assurances by the Department of Corrections that their concerns were being addressed.

“We were tired of getting surprised," said Triggiano, the children's court judge.

Butler and another guard who had been on the scene when Evans' toes were smashed were put on paid leave. Butler quit within days.

The following week, chief psychologist Vincent Ramos was fired for having taken pictures of interns in a hotel room while wearing only his underwear and a T-shirt. He had been investigated — but not disciplined — months earlier for commenting that a teenage inmate's breasts looked "rode hard and put away wet."

Since November 2014, eight employees have been fired and 14 have resigned or retired amid internal investigations. Some of those departures are not related to the initial abuse allegations, according to the Department of Corrections.

Walker replaced Corrections Secretary Wall with Jon Litscher, who had run the department a dozen years earlier. Litscher promoted Peterson to superintendent, but new people were put in place in the top ranks of the prison and the department's central office.

In response to the problems, Department of Corrections officials installed 60 more surveillance cameras and equipped guards with body cameras. They began holding weekly meetings to review major incidents. They dramatically increased training.

To help combat the staffing shortage, Litscher raised entry-level wages by 80 cents, to $16 an hour. The pay increase was seen as a welcome starting point by staff who had their take-home wages cut as part of Act 10. This year, the state has hired more than 40 new guards at Lincoln Hills.

In November, the prison ended a decades-long practice of having guards dispense medication. Those duties were handed over to nurses after guards accidentally gave inmates the wrong prescription drugs several times.

“The dynamic is 100% better,” Department of Correction spokesman Tristan Cook said of changes that have been adopted in the last year.

But the chief judge of Milwaukee County, Maxine White, said her confidence in how Lincoln Hills is run has yet to be restored. After she visited Lincoln Hills in January, she called the facility inhumane.

"I saw a detention facility," she said in a recent interview, noting state law emphasizes the importance of rehabilitating juvenile delinquents.

"They were in their rooms. Nothing was going on. There was no activity. Nothing. For $300 a day, we were getting housing. But in the juvenile code, that's not the deal."

This month, Walker told Milwaukee County officials he is open to having the state help pay for building a local 36-bed juvenile corrections center to help it limit how many kids it sends to Lincoln Hills.

The idea is still in the early stages, and it's unclear if lawmakers will sign onto the plan.

Quiet federal probe

The internal investigation of Lincoln Hills was completed in the spring of 2016, but criminal and civil investigations remain open.  The FBI hasn't visited the prison for nearly a year.

“People would be sorely mistaken if they thought we were not continuing this investigation,” said John Vaudreuil, the U.S. attorney for Wisconsin's western district.

The case is taking so long because it is complex, he said. Agents are using a computer program to link incidents mentioned by inmates in hundreds of interviews, he said.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is reviewing whether there was a pattern of civil rights violations at Lincoln Hills.

If the department makes such a finding, the federal government could sue the state and force changes under the watch of a judge  — an expensive endeavor that has compelled other states to reform their juvenile justice systems.

Meanwhile, juveniles continue to be sent to Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake. Local officials have few other options for serious offenders.

For judges in Milwaukee County Children's Court, who handle child welfare and juvenile delinquency cases, they face the quandary of sending youth to a place they view as dangerous.

“Day in and day out, my colleagues are asked to remove children from homes, parental homes, that are being investigated for abuse and neglect," said Triggiano. "In the same breath, we are being asked to send kids to a place being investigated for abuse and neglect.”

Victim becomes suspect

Soon after Evans' toes were crushed at Lincoln Hills, he attacked an inmate at a Wauwatosa detention center. He was convicted of battery in June.

Evans, who turned 18 in September, has been acting out, sometimes violently, since middle school, court records show.  He ran away from group homes, assaulted a teacher and stole a van before he was sent to Lincoln Hills on a theft charge. There, he often was in the segregation unit for fighting.

By this fall, his circumstances appeared to have improved. On Sept. 20, Evans signed the settlement that would provide him $300,000.

Three days later, before he got the settlement money, Evans and two others snatched a woman's car keys from a table at a McDonald's in Milwaukee, ran into the parking lot and stole her Honda Odyssey, prosecutors allege.

Records show Evans is a suspect in four other carjacking and car theft cases from October. Prosecutors will decide soon whether to charge him, said Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Wesson.

Evans is the first former inmate to get a settlement, but he may not be the last. The Walker administration has hired a law firm specifically to handle expected lawsuits against the state from former Lincoln Hills inmates and their families.

John Diedrich of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Facing problems, Missouri revamped juvenile justice
How we reported this story

For this investigation of Wisconsin's juvenile prisons, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel conducted dozens of interviews and reviewed more than 1,000 pages of documents gathered under the state's open records law.

Those who were interviewed include the parents of juvenile inmates at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, current and former guards, corrections officials, prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement officers and elected officials.

Among the records that were reviewed are prison incident reports; internal investigation reports; transcripts of internal investigators' interviews with staff and inmates; settlement agreements; sheriff department reports; inmate requests for compensation because of injuries; budget reports; court documents; correspondence from inmates; and emails and text messages sent by prison workers and other state officials.

All accounts in this article come from one of these sources and often a combination of sources. For instance, the account of an inmate having his foot smashed in November 2015 is drawn from interviews with those who were there that night or directly familiar with what happened, as well as incident reports, the boy's account as submitted in a notice of claim, and transcripts of interviews conducted by internal investigators.

The Journal Sentinel has not named Lincoln Hills juveniles who have been injured, except in the case of Kenyadi Evans, whose foot was smashed. As an adult, Evans has received a large settlement from state taxpayers and has been charged with a felony.

Crisis at Lincoln Hills juvenile prison years in making
Patrick Marley , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Published 10:00 a.m. CT Dec. 17, 2016 | Updated 3:49 p.m. CT Jan. 6, 2017

Red flags raised to Walker, others but abuses continued

Irma — Shirtless and handcuffed, the 17-year-old inmate stood in the hallway of the segregation unit, refusing to go into his room.

“You want to do something, do it now!" Kenyadi Evans snapped at two guards.

When a third guard arrived, Evans sized her up. “I'll beat your ass, too,” he said.

Guard Jeff Butler had heard enough that chaotic night, one like so many other nights at the trouble-plagued Lincoln Hills School for Boys. He shoved the teen into the room and slammed the door, smashing his foot.

Out of frustration, Butler punched the metal door so hard that he broke his hand.

Before driving himself to the hospital, the four-year Lincoln Hills veteran sat in his truck and cried, prison records show.

Inside his room, Evans screamed and held up his foot so the staff could see the bleeding. The Milwaukee teen had lost parts of two small toes, but it would take prison officials nearly two hours to take him to a hospital 15 miles away.

He would eventually require multiple surgeries and the partial amputation of the two toes.

It was Nov. 29, 2015.

It had been 46 months — nearly four years — since a judge alerted Gov. Scott Walker that prison officials had waited hours to take an inmate who had been sexually assaulted to a hospital. Twelve months since the Department of Corrections had launched an internal investigation. Ten months since criminal investigators had opened their own probe. One month since prosecutors had told a court they believed children were being abused.

Six days after Evans' toes were crushed, state agents descended on the facility, located 30 miles north of Wausau. The raid began to lay bare problems that would result in the departure of a dozen employees, spark an FBI investigation and deepen concerns about the state's justice system for juveniles who commit serious crimes.

The night Evans was injured made clear that public officials — from front-line guards to the governor  — had for years missed or ignored numerous warning signs about a facility descending into disorder.

On the way to the hospital, Evans boasted, said the guard who drove him there.

“He was talking about how much money he was going to make,” retired guard Doug Curtis recalled. “‘Boy, I’m going to make some money off of this. You’re going to pay.’”

Indeed, within a year taxpayers would give Evans a $300,000 settlement to avoid a lawsuit.

Problems fester

For years, officials knew or should have known about the thicket of problems at Lincoln Hills and its sister facility on the same campus, Copper Lake School for Girls.

“It all went on in plain view of the Department of Corrections, but nobody at the Department of Corrections knew how juvenile corrections worked or how Lincoln Hills operated or what was going on," said Troy Bauch, who until recently was the union representative for workers there.

“Nobody cared.”

The sweeping criminal probe, now nearly 2 years old, is examining allegations of prisoner abuse, child neglect, sexual assault, intimidation of witnesses and victims, strangulation and tampering with public records. A separate internal investigation uncovered four incidents where inmates' bones were broken.

The crisis at Lincoln Hills is rooted in systematic breakdowns, lax management, confusion over policies, a lack of communication and chronic staff shortages, a review of more than 1,000 pages of records and dozens of interviews by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found.

Officials trained staff improperly, failed to preserve video evidence, didn't document serious incidents, and often shirked their duty to report matters to parents, police and social service agencies.

The shortcomings intensified in 2011 when the Walker administration shut down two youth prisons in southeastern Wisconsin to save $25 million a year. The move put all of the state's serious teen offenders in one facility — hundreds of miles from most of their families.

“The entire climate went from mildly hellish to the ninth ring of hell," said Timothy Johnson, a former guard.

While a developing crisis quickly became apparent, no one moved to address it.

After nearly six years in office, Walker has yet to visit Lincoln Hills.

A prison with an unassuming name

Opened in 1970, Lincoln Hills is surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with razor wire. Inmates live in dorm-style cottages that dot the campus near the small town of Irma. They attend school year-round in a central building.

The state tries to give the facility a different atmosphere than adult prisons. Inmates are referred to as youth, guards as youth counselors. Residents hang Halloween and Christmas decorations to try to give it a homey air.

Lincoln Hills generally holds inmates as young as 13 and as old as 25, separated by treatment and education needs. Most inmates are in their mid to late teens; some adults are being held for crimes they committed as juveniles.

About 145 boys are in Lincoln Hills and 20 girls in Copper Lake. The two areas are separated by fences. Holding an inmate costs more than $100,000 a year.

Most of the inmates are African-American and come from Milwaukee  — 215 miles and 3½ hours away. The staff is largely white and from the rural north.

Unlike the state’s overpopulated adult prisons, there is plenty of room at Lincoln Hills. The prison was built to hold more than 500 inmates.

Typically, the inmates have committed serious, violent crimes  — including homicide and robbery — or have had repeated run-ins with the law and didn’t turn their behavior around after being sent to group homes.

'A caged dog'

The mother of one Milwaukee teen had mixed feelings when her son was sent to Lincoln Hills in 2014 at age 15. She worried about him being there but knew he needed serious intervention.

“(He) was at that point of no return,” said the mother, who spoke to the Journal Sentinel on the condition that her name not be used.

The boy was first arrested at 13 after breaking into a friend’s house. Before long, he broke into a school to try to steal computers. He ran away from group homes, once stealing a car.

At Lincoln Hills, he was frequently sent to segregation for beating others. Guards often doused him with pepper spray, his mother said.

"It felt like my son was a caged dog, not a child or a man,” she said.

In August, a staff member filed a report claiming the boy had attempted suicide by tying a shirt around his neck.

No one from Lincoln Hills notified the mother — a problem that repeatedly has cropped up at the juvenile prison.

She found out three months later, from a delinquency services official for Milwaukee County.

“When I got this letter, I almost had a heart attack,” she said. “My child tried to commit suicide and nobody told me? I would’ve walked, if I had to, up to Lincoln Hills and been there for him to find out what would make him want to harm himself.”

Her son, now 17, later said he had not attempted suicide but had covered his face with a shirt because he was about to be hit with pepper spray. She said she believed her son because he had never tried to hurt himself before.

A Department of Corrections spokesman said parents are notified only if an injury occurs.

When she contacted Lincoln Hills to find out why she hadn’t been told of the incident, she was told she would get a call back that day.

She is still waiting for that call.

Shutting down a prison

Numbers drove the decision to consolidate the state's juvenile inmates at Lincoln Hills.

In 2004, the state’s youth prisons held 668 inmates on a typical day. By 2011, the figure had dropped to nearly half that.

The reduction, which mirrored national trends was due to several factors. Fewer juveniles were being arrested. When they did get in trouble, they were increasingly being placed in community-based settings instead of prisons.

It no longer made financial sense for the state to run three secure facilities — Lincoln Hills, Ethan Allen School in Waukesha County and Southern Oaks Girls School in Racine County. In 2010, Gov. Jim Doyle formed a task force to figure out what to do and concluded a juvenile prison should close.

Ethan Allen was older, its grounds were smaller and the facility was more expensive to run than Lincoln Hills. At the time they were closed, Ethan Allen and Southern Oaks together cost nearly $33 million a year to operate. Lincoln Hills cost about $19 million.

It was also easier to close Ethan Allen than Lincoln Hills. A state law requires a juvenile prison to be maintained in northern Wisconsin.

Former Republican state Sen. Clifford "Tiny" Krueger, a tavern keeper in Merrill who had performed in the circus because of his girth, inserted the measure into state law more than 40 years ago, recalled Jim Moeser, a former juvenile corrections official.

No such law applied to southeastern Wisconsin, even though most juvenile inmates come from the state's most populated region.

Doyle's task force said if a facility was to be closed, there should be careful planning for the transition.

When Walker took office in January 2011, he moved quickly to close Ethan Allen and Southern Oaks.

The consolidation saved $25 million a year. Like other changes the Republican governor made early in his tenure, the move was overshadowed by the mass protests spawned by Act 10, which weakened collective bargaining for most public employees.

As juvenile justice experts around the nation were recommending smaller, more localized facilities, Wisconsin went in the opposite direction, consolidating operations in a remote setting.

"This is a 19th century or early 20th century model, where you have a large state-operated facility hours away from the urban centers," said Jeffrey Butts, director of a research center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

"It is profoundly ineffective and wasteful."

A rocky transition

More than 100 inmates were transferred to Lincoln Hills over several months in 2011, almost doubling the population.

Lincoln Hills got approval to bring on more than 100 new employees, but the institution was chronically short-staffed because of the challenge of hiring prison workers in a sparsely populated area. Supervisors forced employees to work double shifts, and living units were often operated with fewer employees, providing workers with less backup.

There were so many double shifts employees sometimes had trouble staying awake on their drives home, guards said.

“We got people walking around like zombies,” Curtis said in a recent interview as he reflected on his time as a guard there. “They want to know when they’re going to sleep again.”

The influx of new inmates created fights and arguments, as the teens sought to establish where they stood in the prison’s pecking order.

“I would come in at 6:30 and by 6:31 I’d have a couple guys on the floor in handcuffs,” said Johnson.

Guards, meanwhile, were angry because Act 10 made them pay more for their benefits, cutting a typical worker's take-home pay by 8.5%. With the loss of collective bargaining, they also had less say in how the prison was run.

Around this time, prison officials instituted a philosophy that calls for using restraints less often and trying to talk inmates through their problems when they act up instead of isolating them. Guards were skeptical.

Paul Westerhaus, who for years played key roles in running Lincoln Hills, admitted to internal investigators in 2015 that he didn't recognize the scope of the problems that were developing or move to fix them. The abrupt consolidation threw the staff into disarray, and the institution didn't have a solid training program to deal with it, he said.

He also attributed the problems to an inmate population that had more mental health issues and was increasingly aggressive. Having one facility made it tougher to separate inmates who clashed because they couldn't be transferred to another prison.

“It's almost like it began a perfect storm, and it just sort of went and grew from there,” he said.

Warnings arrived early 

In February 2012, Racine County Circuit Judge Richard Kreul did something he'd never done during 18 years on the bench. He wrote the governor a letter about one of his cases.

"I'm sure reading the attached memo will shock you as much as it did me," he wrote.

The memo Kreul sent to Walker described an incident in which an inmate from Racine was forced to perform oral sex on his roommate and then beaten unconscious.

Workers learned of the assault at 4 p.m. They didn’t get the victim medical treatment for three hours.

The delay happened in part because other inmates were playing a basketball game, according to a Racine County human services report.

“What did you want us to do, stop the game?” Lincoln Hills psychologist Paul Hesse asked with a chuckle when a Racine County official inquired about the sexual assault and beating, according to county records.

That night, more than six hours after the assault was discovered, hospital workers — not prison staff — reported the assault to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department. The offender was ultimately convicted of the beating and sexual assault.

Racine County officials were tipped to the assault by another youth, but only got details from Lincoln Hills officials after making repeated inquiries. In response, Racine County dramatically scaled back sending juveniles to Lincoln Hills.

The day after the assault, Lincoln Hills officials sent the victim to segregated housing for disruptive behavior. It was that detail  — punishing the victim — that prompted the judge to write the governor eight months after Ethan Allen School was consolidated into Lincoln Hills.

His memo was addressed to the governor, but Walker's aides said they never showed it to him. At the time, he was fighting for his political life during a recall election sparked by Act 10.

No one was disciplined for the handling of the assault. Department of Corrections officials told county workers they were retraining employees, but they did not get back to the judge himself.

"Zero," said Kreul, who is now retired. "I got nothing back. I would not have sent the letter if I thought it was going to go to the circular file. ... I thought somebody would say, 'This merits some real investigation.'"

At the time of the sexual assault and delayed response, Westerhaus was the prison’s superintendent and John Ourada its deputy superintendent.

Walker's team promoted the pair two years later, in 2014.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The state inspector general for child welfare is investigating child sexual abuse and exploitation of children in state-licensed facilities.
Julie Rogers announced Wednesday that her investigation will show whether the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is taking adequate precautions to prevent and respond to children in the state’s care being abused.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports ( ) that Rogers‘ office has received 36 reports since July 2013 of state wards, youth placed in state-licensed facilities and youths adopted from the child welfare system subjected to sexual abuse or exploitation.
“We know that children and youth in the state’s care - both in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems - are particularly vulnerable. Many have already been victims of abuse or neglect, have experienced trauma, or both,” she said.
HHS spokesman Russ Reno said the agency has cooperated with the investigation and will welcome its recommendations.
“The care and well-being of children in our custody is of the utmost importance to this Agency,” Reno said.

The children reporting abuse say they were sexually abused by foster parents, adoptive parents, other youths or staff members at residential care facilities.
Several abuse cases have made headlines in recent years. In one, a 34-year-old Beatrice woman was sentenced to two years in prison after a friend of her boyfriend developed a sexual relationship with her 14-year-old foster child when he stayed at her house.
And in August, a 28-year-old former therapist at Kearney’s Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center was charged with having sexual contact with an 18-year-old at the center.
All of the cases Rogers is aware of have already been investigated by law enforcement and referred to prosecutors, if needed. Rogers said she doesn’t plan to duplicate those efforts.
Rogers‘ investigation will focus on identifying areas for improvement and making recommendations on how the state can better protect children. Her recommendations will be made public in September.

Kirstie Bean of Concord allegedly had relations with a boy at the Sununu Center, gave him and another teen alcohol, tampered with a witness.
By Tony Schinella (Patch Staff) - December 29, 2016 2:18 pm ET

MANCHESTER, NH — A local sociologist who was recently employed as a youth counselor at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester has been arrested for child rape and other charges, according to a New Hampshire State Police investigation. Kirstie Bean, 25, of Chapel Street in Concord, was arrested on Dec. 1, 2016, for aggravated felonious sexual assault, felonious sexual assault-penetration of a victim 13 to 15, handguns-sale of a pistol to a minor, three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, witness tampering, and hindering apprehension or prosecution.

Editor’s note: This post was derived from information supplied by the Manchester District Court. It does not indicate a conviction. This link explains the name removal request process for NH Patch police reports.

While there is limited information being released about the investigation, according to court documents, a state police detective began looking into allegations that Bean was inappropriately involved with a then-15-year-old boy at the facility earlier this year.

Between early June and late August of this year, she allegedly began touching the boy in a sexual manner while she was a counselor at the center and had “disciplinary authority” over the teen. On April 24, Bean allegedly purchased alcohol for the boy as well as an 18-year-old and provided it to them at an unknown location in Manchester. On Aug. 26, she allegedly let the boy operate a motor vehicle in Manchester.

By October, with an official investigation underway into allegations against her, Bean allegedly “knowingly attempted to induce or otherwise cause” the boy to withhold testimony, documentation, or information, after reportedly calling him at the facility and telling him that he should not be “speaking about their relationship” to anyone, according to court documents.

The court file did not reveal information about the aggravated felonious sexual assault-penetration charge, the gun sale to a minor charge, or hindering apprehension allegation.

On Nov. 30, state police took out a warrant for Bean’s arrest and she was arrested at the facility on River Road at just after 1 p.m. the next day. She was released later on $2,500 cash bail.

Before working for the Sununu Center, according to her LinkedIn profile and other employment information online, Bean was a summer camp counselor at the Pines Community Center, a recreational facility in Northfield, between 2008 and 2014, a substitute teacher at the Keene Day Care Center between 2012 and 2014 while attending college, and a babysitter, before graduating from Winnisquam High School.

On her protected Twitter account, she stated in the caption, “The ones I pity are the ones who never stick out their neck for something they believe, never know the taste of moral struggle, & never the thrill of victory.”

Bean’s attorney appeared on her behalf on Dec. 19, and entered a plea of “not guilty” to the charges, according to court documents. Bean is due back in court for an arraignment on Jan. 9, 2017, in Manchester District Court.

Other charges against Bean

This isn’t Bean’s only run-in with police, according to reports online.

Back on April 25, she was stopped at 12:30 a.m. in Hillsboro by an officer for a motor vehicle violation, according to a report on the department’s website. After a reported consent search of the vehicle, she was arrested on a possession of drugs in a motor vehicle charge. A passenger in the vehicle – Jacob Morrisette, 18, of Hillsboro – was also arrested for possession of drugs.

Problems at the center

The Sununu Youth Services Center is a 144-bed secure detention center that offers institutional services to New Hampshire residents who are 13 to 17 and have previously been involved in criminal activity. It is the state’s only juvenile detention facility and is run by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Like other detention facilities as well as prisons, it has strict sexual assault and sexual harassment policies based on federal laws.

A NH DHHS spokesperson stated that Bean was no longer employed at the facility.

According to NHPR, the facility’s population has been declining in recent years, while lawmakers have been analyzing how to best use the facility. In a 2015 report, the radio network noted that only a third of its beds were being used at the time.

Back in mid-October, members of SEIU 1984, the state employee’s union, met with Democrat gubernatorial candidate Colin Van Ostern to discuss the work at the facility, including the challenges facing employees. One nurse, according to a post on the union’s website, stated that the Sununu Center was “not a jail” but “a treatment facility.”

Drug Treatment Counselor in Perth Amboy Charged With Extortion
MCPO: Howell Man Extorted Cash in Exchange For Favorable Reports on "Client"

Code: [Select]
PERTH AMBOY, NJ—A 54-year-old man from Howell Township was charged with second-degree "theft by extortion" in connection with his work as a drug treatment counsellor at a Perth Amboy clinic called "Journey to Wellness."

Anthony Trimble, who also earns $63,470 working for the state performing a similar function at the Special Treatment Unit of East Jersey State Prison in Avenel, according to's Craig McCarthy.

According to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO), Trimble "demanded [an] undisclosed sum on December 14, 2016 after the victim failed a drug test."

Trimble faces five to ten years in state prison if convicted of doing so but, at least for now, he is a free man.  Having been released on his own recognizance, Trimble did not spend any time as an inmate in jail and did not have to pay any bail to be released.

The victim was someone, whose identity prosecutors did not disclose, who had been sentenced to three years on probation, and was required to report to Trimble.  The man's attorney allegedly alerted authorities.

The private company, which is apparently working with the state's criminal justice system, told McCarthy that they fired Trimble after learning of the accusations from detectives.

But the status of his job with the State of New Jersey is still not clear, more than three weeks after the arrest.

Ellen Lovejoy, a spokesperson for the NJ Department of Human Services, did not respond to an inquiry about whether or not Trimble was being paid during his suspension.  McCarthy's report noted that, "It was unclear if Trimble was still being paid by the state while suspended."

The charges have raised also concerns about privatization within the criminal justice system, where small--and sometimes questionable--companies get put in charge of serious responsibilities.

"With 1 in 5 positive tests being a false positive and retesting at the discretion of the counselor and a positive test result impacting probation or child visitation the incentive is great for the clients to pay off the counselors," noted one commenter on the December 23 article.

"Private drug rehabs not investigated closely enough," the comment concluded.

In addition to the Market Street location where Trimble worked, Journey to Wellness also has a "self-help" facility in Toms River, one that is listed on a state website.

Their Perth Amboy facility appears to operate out of a small, nondescript building that has not been marked on the outside by anything more than a modest company banner that has since come down.

Journey to Wellness' low-tech website includes a pitch for people to consider applying for a job there:
Come join our professional and friendly substance abuse counseling team!

We have openings for applicants with a degree in psychology, social work, counseling, or a related field AND a CADC or LCADC to provide substance abuse counseling services to men, women, adolescents and their families.

Bilingual candidates are welcome! We are also accepting interns pursuing the CADC or the LCADC who speak Spanish fluently.

We offers the following six points about the job on its hacked website:
1. Flexible hours
2. Per diem hours
3. A highly competitive hourly rate
4. Your caseload is determined by you
5. On-the-job training and support
6. A family-friendly working environment

In the days following the news of Trimble's arrest, the site displayed a message indicating it had been hacked.

"I wanted to inform you that the site is vulnerable to any type of attack, your files are not safe from attack," read the message from the hacker, who apparently went by the name "REV."

Hacked by REV* I am a good hacker. i belong to the "whitehat"
I wanted to inform you that this site is vulnerable to any type of attack, your files are not safe from attack. Admin, repairs the
vulnerability before someone with malevolent intentions takes hold of your site.
Kindest regards
Group whitehat.

With an increasing number of alleged offenders taking deals that require them to submit to urine testing in order to avoid jail, probation and other diversionary programs find themselves increasingly relying on urinalysis.

Drug testing is sometimes left to private companies like Journey to Wellness, but even in cases where the government is in charge, similar problems still arise.

Trimble's situation mirrors a charge leveled against a Middlesex County Court employee who worked in the county's "drug court."

Rhonda Battle, another state employee who worked in the courtroom of Judge Lorraine Pullen at the Middlesex County Courthouse is still facing an indictment on charges she took $200 bribes throughout 2014 in exchange for clean test results.

Judge Pullen abruptly retired shortly thereafter, but she is now back on the bench in Superior Court.  Battle's case is still pending, and has been moved to her home county--Union--to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The investigation is being conducted by MCPO Detective Kevin Schroeck, and is characterized as "active" and "continuing." Anyone with information is Schroeck at (732) 745-3300.

Woman pleads guilty in Crossroads teen rape
Xerxes Wilson , The News Journal

Rebecca Winters, a former Crossroads drug and alcohol counselor, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to three counts of fourth-degree rape.

The plea came three days into her trial in which she was charged with sexually abusing a 16-year-old patient in her care.

Kent County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clark ordered a pre-sentencing investigation ahead of her Feb. 28 sentencing hearing. Winters faces up to 45 years imprisonment under the plea, according to Karl Canefsky, Department of Justice spokesman.

It is unclear if prosecutors will recommend a sentence as part of the plea. John Malik, Winters' attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Winters had been charged with 12 counts of fourth-degree rape and sexual abuse of a child by a person of trust, two counts of providing alcohol to a minor and continuous sexual abuse of a child. Dover police arrested Winters in August 2015 and accused her of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old for nearly three months during the summer of 2015.

The first three days of trial saw testimony from another patient at Crossroads who observed Winters' relationship with the victim as well as the victim, his mother and others.

"He would text me and tell me basically everything," said the 15-year-old girl, whose name is being withheld because she is a minor. "They had sex and she did things to him and he did things to her."

The girl, who received treatment at Crossroads for drug and alcohol abuse, described the routine of Winters regularly driving her, the victim and other children for treatment at Crossroad's Milford center. She said beach and movie outings gave clues of Winters' alleged close relationship with the victim as well as her looking the other way when rules were broken.

Winters' first trial ended in a mistrial earlier this year after testimony from a police detective was ruled to have compromised proceedings.

A separate civil lawsuit is still pending in Superior Court against Crossroads, claiming Winters's mother, Alberta Crowley, who was executive director of the now-closed organization, should have known that her daughter was sexually abusing a patient. Crowley has said she called the child abuse hotline when she learned of the relationship in August.

For more than 20 years, Crossroads, a for-profit organization, provided behavioral healthcare for adults and juveniles through outpatient substance abuse treatment, an adolescent full-day plan and intensive outpatient program for adults.

‘Spiritual warfare,’ ‘demonic attacks.’ The role religion played in home for sex-trafficking victims

[email protected]

Two weeks before the voluntary shutdown this year of Courage House, a licensed group home for young sex-trafficking victims near Sacramento, a ritual was performed on a teenage girl.

According to findings in a state investigation, the girl’s forehead was anointed with oil, a religious verse was recited and the teen was told she would have to be a Christian, or at least denounce Satan, to continue living in the home. Crosses then were handed out to the other girls to wear.

Courage House founder Jenny Williamson later would explain that the girl had multiple personalities and posed a danger to herself and others. “She worshipped Satan, and she practiced animal and human sacrifice,” she told The Sacramento Bee in August.

Williamson told regulators in a June 18 memo responding to the state’s unannounced visit that the girl had been the victim of satanic ritualistic abuse and told staff she had “participated in human sacrifice when she was an alter personality.” Williamson said the girl terrified staff by announcing that “this week was a blood sacrifice week.”

The California Department of Social Services did not accept the group home’s explanation and issued Courage House a “Type A” citation, the most severe penalty for violations considered serious enough to have an immediate impact on clients’ health, safety or personal rights.

In its investigation, the state found that the girl had an interest in satanism but did not threaten to perform sacrifices and, instead, had “made a general statement that she enjoyed drawing some of the images” of satanic practice, a state licensing official wrote.

Courage House appealed the citation twice, losing again in November, arguing in its appeals documents that the state’s investigation was “grossly inadequate” and that “the resident was adamant that she wanted to pray to become a Christian.” In addition, her condition left her with frequent amnesia, preventing her from being able to recount “full events,” two Courage House officials wrote Oct. 6 in their second appeal to the state.

“There was never any pressure given, or ultimatums discussed with her,” wrote former program director Melissa Herrmann and clinical director Angela Chanter, who participated in the episode. “She was told she could not perform human and animal sacrifices, or drink the blood of any person there, but she was never told she could not worship Satan nor was she told she had to become a Christian.”

The clash underscores the tension that can arise between faith-based service providers and government officials – each held accountable for the health and safety of vulnerable clients.

Over the last decade, child sex trafficking has become a hot-button topic, spawning new programs and multiple new funding streams. Christian organizations in particular have rallied to the cause, organizing conferences, engaging communities and embarking on worldwide missionary work.

Some Christian-based groups, such as Courage House and its nonprofit parent organization, Courage Worldwide Inc. of Rocklin, have gone a step further, establishing their own facilities to house and treat young victims.

As the new year approaches, the once-vaunted program is struggling to reopen its Northern California facility for six girls, ages 11 to 17, while undergoing scrutiny from the state – including accusations it has violated children’s right to religious freedom.

Because Courage Worldwide accepts government money – $9,100 a month per child at the time the group’s Sacramento-area home closed in June – the program must stay within regulatory boundaries and not favor one religion over another, or press children to participate. If it is able to reopen, it would be eligible for about $12,000 a month per girl under a new state system in effect next year.

Courage Worldwide officials maintain they have found the appropriate balance.

“State funds do not mean you cannot be a Christian home – state funds and license mean you cannot force a child to practice any religious ritual, and Courage House does not,” said Gil Stieglitz, a board member for Courage Worldwide Inc. and pastor at Bayside Church in Roseville, in an emailed response.

From the time Courage Worldwide opened its Sacramento-area group home in 2011 on 52 acres north of the city, the organization has been steeped in Christian beliefs and practices, according to a Bee examination of state licensing records, dozens of internal Courage Worldwide emails and interviews with 17 former employees, business associates and a former client. The group opened a second Courage House around that same time in the east African country of Tanzania that it says now has 12 beds.

Over and over, Williamson has publicly recited the story of how God spoke to her in church and directed her to build a home for her “daughters.” The organization’s major benefactors – and recruiting grounds for volunteers and donations – have included Christian churches in the Sacramento region and other states.

Email exchanges in 2012 among corporate executives, obtained from a source, show spirited and sometimes frenetic discussions about “demonic attacks” on the girls and the “spiritual warfare” necessary to counter the threat.

“October is a hideous month where the evil one is worshipped daily by his followers and those on our team (and some of our girls in Africa and Nor Cal) that have come out of SRA or witchcraft (satanic ritual abuse) are experience (sic) relentless demonic attacks,” employee Stephanie Midthun wrote in an October 2012 email to staff.

Midthun and her husband, Joel, are key figures in the Courage Worldwide organization. Joel, the pastor of Elk Grove’s Living Water Church, is on the board of directors. Stephanie has served in various roles since 2008, including creative director, chaplain, spiritual adviser and community relations director.

A July 2011 email Williamson sent to her staff and supporters warned: “We are at war! We are under great attack and need your prayers ... If you have a personal relationship with the girls – any time this week – morning, noon, afternoon evening please go out to Courage House to pray and prophecy over them, please, please do so!”

In a March 2012 email, Herrmann, the former program director, discussed the possibility of taking a young client being discharged from a hospital directly to a hotel room in Elk Grove “while she goes through a more intense deliverance and prayer process before transitioning her back” to Courage House.

For years, Williamson has touted an ambitious expansion plan for Courage House Northern California that includes as its centerpiece a shimmering chapel with a large cross, according to architectural renderings. The architect’s plan, which also envisions 10 new cottages for 60 girls, describes the chapel “as the most important building on the campus.” Despite aggressive fundraising around those plans – and a $300,000-plus kick start in 2011 from Bayside Church – the organization has yet to break ground.

Williamson and other Courage Worldwide officials vehemently deny there is any pressure to practice Christianity at Courage House, and said that girls are free to attend services of their choice as staffing levels permit.

“We are in full agreement with the state to provide access to religious services when the girls request it, if provided sufficient notice in advance so that we can properly staff for such requests,” Courage Worldwide officials said in an emailed statement to The Bee.

The state licensing file includes a sample of a “Courage House religious participation form,” which allows girls to check a box indicating their preferences. Choices range from no participation to weekly church services to worship nights and other spiritual events.

Even so, the state leveled a Type B citation against Courage House in December 2015, finding that the girls were required to attend the Midthuns’ church – a concern shared by some staff members.

DeAnne Brining, a former therapist at the home, said the girls felt awkward and conspicuous at the church because the congregation knew who they were. “The girls did not want to be known as Courage girls,” she said. “Everybody at that church knew they were trafficked.”

Courage Worldwide officials disputed the state’s findings, telling The Bee the Elk Grove church was the girls’ “consensus choice.”

The citation was the first of two issued to Courage House by the department’s Community Care Licensing Division for violating children’s religious freedom. That in itself is unusual: Citations regarding religious freedom are so rare in California group homes that only nine other group homes out of 1,500 statewide – regardless of size – have been written up for this violation in the last five years, according to an analysis of statewide data, which includes facilities that operated during this period but are now closed.

Courage Worldwide’s conflicts with the state have extended beyond matters of religious freedom. In the last five years, Courage House has been cited 36 times for regulatory violations, according to the data released to The Bee in early December. That’s more than three times the average for citations at the 300 facilities statewide of similar size and classification level.

Only 14 facilities in California of similar size and classification logged more citations during that period.

Courage Worldwide officials, in their emailed response, noted that while some deficiencies have been about policy, others involved “paperwork issues.”

“No deficiency has been over an issue that the state viewed as serious enough to shut our facility, as it has at other facilities,” the email stated.

‘Battle worship’ and witchcraft

A former life coach and motivational speaker, Williamson founded her nonprofit a decade ago, originally under the name Courage To Be You Inc. The organization started with a social mission of empowering people to “fulfill their God-given purpose,” then refocused in 2008 to sex trafficking, eventually changing its name to Courage Worldwide to reflect its global aspirations.

In recent years, the organization has gained favor in Sacramento’s philanthropic community, collecting millions in donations while promoting the grandiose vision of expansion.

This year, though, the organization’s fundraising practices uncorked a controversy when Williamson and her board quietly decided to close the Northern California facility, a move they say is temporary. The four remaining girls were given seven-day notices and the home closed June 13, with most of the staff laid off over the summer.

The organization told regulators in June it needed a temporary “pause” to prepare for next year’s overhaul in how the state handles placements of troubled youths, which aims to phase out long-term group homes in favor of more family-based care.

However, Courage Worldwide made no public announcement about its pause and continued to actively solicit money. The Bee’s investigation into Courage House and its closure prompted several major donors to withdraw or curtail their pledges.

From the start, the organization has been open about the role Christianity plays in its mission, and its reliance on fundraising from churches. The Courage Worldwide website now includes a blog post entitled, “Churches are Rising Up to Stand with Courage Worldwide” that lists 25 pastors supporting the group.

Documents and emails obtained by The Bee illustrate how staff operations at times have been intertwined with religious pursuits. The Midthuns often were at the center, along with former program director Herrmann, urging prayer sessions and “battle worship nights” to defeat evil.

“We are calling for a corporate fast for Courage Worldwide for the following tuesdays in October (October 9, 16, 23 and 30th) as well as a special ‘Battle Worship Night’ October 31, Halloween night (location TBA),” Midthun wrote to staffers, board members and supporters in October 2012.

Midthun warned of a “strategic attack against our reputation” and the finances of the organization, as well as the private business run by Williamson and her husband, Mike. The email does not explain the source of those perceived attacks.

“We feel the only way to reverse these spiritual battles or assignment against CWW is on our knees in prayer and working as hard as we can,” Midthun wrote.

Stieglitz of Bayside Church conducted one such service at the group home, according to an email a week later.

“Dr. Gil led the leadership of Courage Worldwide in prayer at Courage House to battle the demonic strongholds at the home in Nor Cal and we all sensed it was very much connected to all over our homes,” Midthun wrote. “We came together on our knees with confession and communion, with prayers, tears and worship to battle for our home, our staff and the girls. We sensed a breakthrough in the spirit.”

In February 2012, Herrmann announced that Midthun and her husband, Joel, had been appointed as “Courage House Spiritual Directors” and that staffers should “pray for extra protection, strength, discernment AND that God would continue to reveal himself to all the girls at Courage House!”

Courage House also offered to underwrite the cost of prayer sessions with a pastor it brought in for “individual prayer counseling sessions with staff, volunteers, families and our girls!” according to a January 2012 email from Herrmann with the subject line “Pastor Joe Appointments.”

“Pastor Joe normally charges $100 for individual prayer counseling sessions,” Herrmann wrote to staff. “Courage to Be You is willing to cover 25% of the cost of an appointment with Pastor Joe.

“Please pay the $75 to him directly …”

The fight against evil also extended to Courage Worldwide’s home in Tanzania, where Courage House officials wrote in an Oct. 24, 2012, email after a trip there that the girls “are still experiencing a lot of demonic attacks.”

“During this trip we have found out quite a bit about some significant amount of witchcraft that was done on the property previously over a number of years (prior to Courage House). We have also been spending time praying with the girls and brought in some local experts in the area of witchcraft to help pray with them individually.”

A prayer for rescue

Even former employees of Courage House who identified themselves as people of deep faith said they viewed the corporate culture as overbearing and some of its practices as inappropriate for the girls.

Arlicia Lorentty, a former social worker at Courage House, said the organization’s religious convictions initially were part of the attraction to work there, but that she later came to believe Williamson was “misusing faith” with her dramatic fundraising appearances aimed at “pulling at people’s heartstrings.”

“As a person who is a Christian, and very much believes God has a heart for this population, I don’t think this is what he meant,” said Lorentty, who left in 2015.

“The use of God’s name for fundraising – that’s the other part that really, really bothers me,” she said. “… She’s exploiting our faith, she’s exploiting these people’s generosity.”

Several former staff members said that the religious intensity continued as the organization grew – along with its pool of government contributions.

Today, Courage Worldwide boasts on its website that its therapeutic trauma program for girls is administered by psychologist Benjamin Keyes of Regent University, a private school in Virginia founded by conservative Christian minister and broadcaster Pat Robertson. Courage Worldwide explains that the program is a “Christian therapeutic model” known as Healing Emotional Affective Responses to Trauma (H.E.A.R.T.)

Lauren Conklin, who worked at Courage House for four years, said she was uncomfortable with some of her bosses’ expectations. At one staff meeting last year, she said, Williamson wanted to wash her employees’ feet, symbolic of Jesus’ gesture to his disciples.

“I said ‘no,’ ” she said.

Linda Fiore, the group home administrator at the time the home closed, said she was not at work when the ritual with the oil and crosses occurred. But she said she attended a staff meeting later at which Courage House officials recounted the event and described their success at driving out evil forces.

“I was just shocked,” said Fiore, who went out on medical leave in June and later was laid off. “It was very uncomfortable just being there.”

Faith-based groups in California and elsewhere are continuing to forge relationships with government to help sex-trafficking victims. Many say they are well aware of the boundaries.

Last year, officials announced that the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office was teaming up with Catholic Charities of the East Bay to create a safe home in the Bay Area for girls recovering from sex trafficking. Mary Kuhn, Catholic Charities communication director, said the home is “on path” to open in 2017 and will seek to become licensed by the state.

“It will be our obligation to meet those requirements,” she said.

“We do not discriminate. Our services are not about proselytizing,” she said. “Our services are about meeting the needs of people.”

Mandy Porter, who coordinates a faith-based alliance to help trafficking victims, said Christian groups and volunteers must be extremely careful not to thrust their faith upon this population, or be perceived as trying to control or manipulate them.

“The idea of choice is so important when treating a trafficking victim because they’ve had so many choices taken away,” said Porter of the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking. “… We don’t want to be another form of coercion, another thing they have to do in order to belong.”

Courage House officials say they believe they are in good standing with the state, and that they’re working to reopen in early 2017. Fundraising efforts continue.

A Dec. 9 fundraising letter posted on the Courage Worldwide website and sent to supporters includes a “giving card” that asks recipients to make a choice: a one-time financial gift; a set monthly contribution; or a commitment to “praying for more children to be rescued out of sex trafficking.”

Open Free for All / merely for Archaeology now?
« on: March 29, 2016, 10:55:42 PM »

Elan School / Re: Justice for Phil Williams?
« on: March 15, 2016, 03:18:25 AM »
A kid with chronic headaches not only doesn't get a nuero-eval, or at least some allowance to take bed rest, but instead he's beaten and left to die under a desk in a staff office under peer supervision and carted quietly away. FFS, what insensate depravity. I need to stop thinking I've read the worst. These places always have worse. Horrors anew and past but not forgotten. I hope his sister can get some answers and some peace.

State will debate legislation this month that would ban the counseling on minors, a practice psychologists say can lead to depression and suicide

Elan School / Re: RIP Tiffany Sedaris
« on: February 09, 2016, 06:51:59 PM »
Yeah, Matt with the exception of *Squirrel meets Chipmunk* you’ll not be missing much.  His stuff used to be better, but the later writings have detoured into frippery of essays attempting to come off as an eccentric, but ultimately just seem try hard in comparison to the former. One article was just some self-indulgent meandering about his tendency to clean-up trash on his long walks with the premise that it somehow made his doings seem oh so strange to the locals, but really it just read like a fit-bit promo.

However, it is only thanks to him that we have an echo of how impacted Tiffany was by her time in Èlan and I find it interesting that in an article which fails yet strove for some essence of a public eulogy, that topic which he eschewed with disdain in her life, still came to the fore enough to merit mention by him. I’ll also say from experience that siblings often experience hardships of their households with (and by acquiring) different defenses. Both he and Amy Sedaris have spoken candidly about the abusive hierarchy in the household among the sibs and of their mother’s drinking and of the coldness of their father. I see it as they were all injured and Tiffany’s coping skills were both less developed and quite likely rankling to David.  Raised in a family with parents described as theirs, it’s not difficult to see how the rule would be to shut up and move on from insults and injuries, but she either couldn’t or wouldn’t. She is also described by more than just David as one who was not easy to know. I say again from experience that loving a sibling and understanding every bit how they got the way they are doesn’t make being with who they’ve become any easier. I had to withdraw, but then again I don’t write essays with mawkish characterizations which exploit the relationship either, so it’s complicated. As of now, David Sedaris has the opportunity to become educated about Èlan and to use his vantage point to speak on behalf of his sister and others, but I won’t hold my breath. In his relatively self-serving defense of the memoir interview with Blake Bailey (another author from a successful family who lost a sibling to suicide and whose writing has crafted rather an ugly epitaph of his mentally ill drug addicted older brother) Sedaris again mentions Èlan.

[…]There never seemed to be an innocent period with her, a period of dating or having a crush. She was sent away to a kind of reform school, a place called Élan [in Maine], when she was 14. Maybe she was innocent there and because we weren't allowed to visit we missed it. It's like she went in as a child and came out a hardened vamp.

Q:Do you think the Élan thing—I see it was a pretty rough place—do you think that was the most valid aspect of whatever overblown grievance Tiffany had against the family?A:I can't remember a single conversation where she didn't talk about that place, I mean, ten, 20, 30 years after she left it.

Q: Now that Tiffany is dead, or even if she weren't, do you think about writing a memoir—I mean a book-length thing rather than individual pieces? Is that something that tempts you at all? A: I would love to find out who she was. But I don't have your skill, the skill to go out and talk to her friends, to hunt down people she went to Élan with and construct a concise portrait of her. We all wonder, my family and I. We talk about it all the time. We'd like to know how she survived. For close to 20 years

Very brief video of Tiffany just laughing and chatting Her wit and humor shine here

Elan School / Re: RIP Tiffany Sedaris
« on: January 15, 2016, 01:04:28 AM »
I have and Agreed. As did she.

His portrayal of her has never been consistently kind. It came across as moments of remote warmth through derision and shades of keeping her one dimensionally displayed in as an accessory to his backstory –his dimension.   

This Essay titled: "Can you keep a secret? Family memoirs break taboos – and trust" addresses (among other authors’ subjects) Tiffany Sedaris’ objections about her brother’s use of her in his stories and even posthumously he denied her wish.

The relevant excerpt from the article:
Tangled lives
With tongue in cheek, David Sedaris addresses the blurring of memory and imagination by describing his family memoirs as “realish”. Sedaris has forged a successful career by recounting the foibles of his family life in best-selling collections such as Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004).
David Sedaris' book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004) was the first his sister Tiffany allowed him to include her in. Little Brown & Co.
Along the way, his sister, Tiffany, requested to be left out of his stories. In a 2004 interview with the Boston Globe, she said “I was the only [sibling] who told him not to put me in his books. I don’t trust David to have boundaries”. Like Aursland, she became upset by the consequences of the stories. People read them as fact, and an invitation to discuss her private life.
In 2014, Sedaris came under fire for an essay he published in the New Yorker, Now We Are Five. The essay describes the Sedaris family’s attempt to deal with their grief over Tiffany’s suicide.
A friend of Tiffany, Michael Knoblach, published a letter in the Somerville Journal accusing Sedaris of ignoring her request not to be a subject in his stories and exploiting her death for artistic and monetary gain.

Should Sedaris have published Now We Are Five after his sister’s death? Some may argue that he should have respected her request not to be represented in his stories. On the other hand, the story is also about her parents, and her siblings. It speaks candidly about grief, guilt, and the way death jolts us into reality. Even when faced with estrangement and loss, the life of the family remains intertwined.
[...]The letter has since been taken down, but a similar version is reposted in the comments  here

I was the last person on this earth to speak with Tiffany Sedaris. We were close friends for nearly a dozen years. The night before she killed herself, she begged me to go along with her to her family reunion,in order to help her through the anxiety over the event. I agreed to go, promising to rent a vehicle, so she could flee at a moment’s notice, should she feel uncomfortable.I even had her a little excited to show me around where she grew up and had her howling with laughter. I expressed the depth of my love and affection for her as a friend, and did so again, when we spoke very briefly the next day… It wasn’t enough.
I know (or can logically guess at) reasons small and large why she committed suicide. I was her friend. I do not give a hoot what anyone else says about this letter. I will do whatever is required of me to defend her honor and legacy. I only wish I could have saved her and have her back in this world.
I found David Sedaris’ article, “Now We Are Five” in the Oct. 28, 2013, New Yorker to be obviously self serving, often grossly inaccurate, almost completely unresearched, and, at times,outright callous. Some of her family had been more than decent, loving and kind to her. “Two lousy boxes”, is Not Tiffany’s legacy. After her sister left with that meager lot, her house was still filled with treasures. Over two vanloads of possessions were pulled from there and other locations by friends. She was a hoarder, of items worthless to most but vitally important to her. There were fantastic art materials; milk crates full of angular rocks (good ones), each crate containing one round stone, which perfectly fits the hand, bearing signs of some form of unorthodox flint knapping to bash and hammer the rocks into shapes she needed; dozens of boxes of antique broken ceramics or stained glass for her mosaics (many dug out of the ground from a hidden 19th century dump whose location she shared only with me); my favorite broken bit being the bottom part of a piece of green McCoy pottery, that now only said “Coy”, (pure Tiffany wit); ephemera, old cdv photos, old letters; fragments of vintage children’s books, her collection of antique baleen corsets, an original picture sleeve from the Little Richard 45 “ooh! my soul/true, fine mama”; her antique baby blue high chair, in part covered with ancient happy dolphin decals, in which sat a doll (representing her) and an old stuffed animal; a rabbit (representing the rabbit she once owned) named ” Little Sweet Miss Bitsy Who’s Its” AKA, “Hooos” (the number of Os varied with her pronunciation), (she gave it away when she could no longer afford or manage to feed it/care for it), she had already long since given away her cat “Mister Wonderful”; those beautiful, multi-colored old vivid lead paint broom handles David mentioned (which she used to have strung together as a divider between rooms when she had a larger apartment) and the cheap plastic flowers she scattered around her body before taking her life. I could go on and on.
As an artist, she was fixated on color and one of the most colorful personalities I am ever likely to meet. She was the queen of the trash pickers. Then there was her astounding artwork, willed to another loyal friend from long before I met her. And most importantly, there is the intangible; the love, the wit, the friendship, humor and affection that her friends will most remember her for. She was ten times funnier than any other Sedaris, since her humor stemmed partly from living a darker, harder life on the razor’s edge. Her passing and the circumstances surrounding it have been unbearably upsetting to her many friends and personally, I will mourn her until my dying day.
Not only could Tiffany been saved, she could have blossomed. While her friends had done all they could,at least half of her mental health issues stemmed from (or were exaggerated by) her poverty and unstable housing situations, but also from David’s occasional mockery of her in his writings.
Her father had the wealth and should have had the wisdom of age to see that she was in dire need of more financial support
David Sedaris made a fortune writing about the foibles and idiosyncrasies of his family, which America and the world has latched onto, since most families are somewhat dysfunctional. As this holiday season and time of reunions approaches, let this be a warning to others: not every black sheep is a lost sheep. Some might come back into the fold with just a little more kind attention or modest financial assistance.
In an interview on Dutch TV, given a month after Tiffany’s suicide, David was asked, “What if you could ask her on question?” He replied, “Can I have the money back that I loaned you?” He laughed. “She borrowed all this money from me. She said “I will pay you back in my lifetime”. I can’t believe I fell for that”. David should consider the payment for his article about Tiffany’s suicide to be a debt paid in full. David’s detachment and insensitivity is insulting and offensive to all who loved Tiffany, likely including his own family. Maybe David could have given Tiffany some more of the money he made off of stories about her. He repeatedly heard she was living a hardscrabble life.
David spent a good 10-20 percent of the article talking about how to name the posh beach house he bought on a whim, three weeks after his youngest sister died, destitute, from a brutally violent suicide in her ramshackle hovel on the ” hard side of Somerville, Massachusetts.” I have a good suggestion as to how to name the new beachfront vacation home, the one with the nice view from David’s bedroom, one of a few houses David owns. Perhaps this one should be named The House of Shame.

Elan School / Re: The Trailer for "The Last Stop "
« on: January 09, 2016, 11:03:54 PM »
Wow, that was brutal and compelling. It looks really nicely done. I can't wait to wince and rage through the whole thing. Thanks for posting this and for the warning, Matt. I'm imagining what it must be like for your friend and others who have done documentaries to immerse themselves in this sort of material and to deal with all of the technical to do's and I'm newly impressed at what mettle it must take of those for whom the material is personal to bring it all together.

I was surprised too, Che. It was quite unexpected. Here's more from two survivors in a recent article: What It’s Like To Escape Ex-Gay Therapy — And Then Defeat It

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