The Skinny: Inquiry Into Boot Camps For Trouble Teens Finds Many Abuses, GAO Report Says
By Keach Heagy
October 10, 2007
For years, people have complained about abuses at so-called boot camps and other wilderness programs where frustrated parents send their troubled teens to get straightened out.
Today, USA Today gets a sneak peak at the findings from the first federal inquiry into the programs, and the results reveal a lot of tough love -- minus the love.
The Government Accountability Office cataloged 1,619 incidents of abuse in 33 states in 2005, according to a study to be released later today. It also looked at a sample of 10 deaths since 1990 and found untrained staff, inadequate food or reckless operations were factors. In half of those cases, the teens died of dehydration or heat exhaustion.
"This nightmare has remained an open secret for years," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif, who has designed a bill to encourage states to enact regulations. "Congress must act, and it must act swiftly."
Investigators counted thousands of cases of abuse, using Web sites and news reports. Five of the 10 programs where teens died are still operating.
The GAO didn't release names, but USA Today pieced together a few of the cases from news reports.
In one particularly haunting case, Anthony Haynes, 14, died in 2001 while at American Buffalo Soldiers boot camp in Arizona. Children there were fed an apple for breakfast, a carrot for lunch and a bowl of beans for dinner.
Haynes became dehydrated in 113-degree heat and vomited up dirt, according to witnesses. The program closed, and the director, Charles Long, was sentenced in 2005 to six years in prison for manslaughter.