October 10, 2007

Government probe finds widespread abuse at juvenile boot camps

When a spider bite sickened 15-year-old Roberto Reyes, staff at a juvenile boot camp tied a 20-pound sandbag around his neck. He later died.
An isolated incident? Not hardly.

The report of a government investigation, released today, documents widespread abuses at juvenile boot camps and wilderness therapy programs around the country and in U.S.-operated facilities abroad. Innvestigators found 1,619 incidents in 2005 alone.

The Government Accountability Office report attributes the abuses to a combination of factors, including reckless operations, untrained staff, insufficient food, and a lack of regulation or oversight. There's not even a central database to register complaints.

This morning, parents of some of the child victims testified at a hearing before the Education and Labor Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. It's good to see that Congress is finally shining a spotlight on this unregulated industry, because deaths like Roberto Reyes' – including many from dehydration and abusive physical discipline - have been in the news for decades.