Discovery Ranch (2005-present) Mapleton, UT
Therapeutic Boarding School
History and Background Information
Discovery Ranch is an Ascent Company behavior-modification program founded on August 21st, 2005. It is marketed as a Residential Treatment Center for teenage boys aged 13-18 with “emotional and behavioral issues.” DR does not accept transgender males. The program has a maxmimum enrollment of 60 boys, and the average length of stay is reported to be around 10 months, but this can be substantially longer if the boy is deemed resistant. The tuition is reported to be anywhere between $6,500 to $12,000 per month. Their motto is apparently “Strength in the Struggle”.
The program is located at 1308 South 1600 West, Mapleton, Utah 84664. When the program opened, it housed both boys and girls on the same campus, but kept them completely seperate in different parts of the campus. However, in 2013 DR moved their girls’ program to Cedar City, UT and began makerting theis program as Discovery Ranch For Girls.
Discovery Ranch has been a NATSAP member since 2005. Discovery Ranch is “accredited” by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools (NAAS), but it is important to note that neither the United States Department of Education nor the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes NAAS as an accrediting agency for institutions of higher education. NAAS is an organization that has “accredited” many notoriously abusive behavior-modification programs, including many WWASP programs.
The program is affiliated with several other Ascent Company programs, such as RedCliff Ascent, Discovery Academy, Discovery Connections, and Oxbow Academy.
Founders and Notable Staff
Clinton Dorny is the Executive Director of Discovery Ranch. He reportedly began working in the TTI because his brothers have worked at various other treatment centers. He began his career working in Admissions at Provo Canyon School, which is widely regarded as the birthplace of the WWASP organization.
Craig Smith worked as the Clinical Director of Discovery Ranch.
Dave Blackwell worked as a Therapist at Discovery Ranch. He previously worked at Provo Canyon School, which is widely regarded as the birthplace of the WWASP organization.
Leslie Glies worked as the Residential Director of Discovery Ranch. She currently works as the Residential Director at Redcliff Ascent, another Ascent Company program.
Brent Hall is reported by survivors to have run the facility. He also is the Executive Director of Discovery Academy. He previously worked at the confirmedly abusive Provo Canyon School, which is widely regarded as the birthplace of the WWASP organization. He also worked for a time as the Director of NATSAP.
Like other behavior-modification programs, Discovery Ranch utilizes a level system based around a merit/demerit structure. The level-system consists of five levels, which the boys progress through by earning points for good behavior while avoiding demerits for negative behaviors and rule infractions.
DR also advertises their “calf program” heavily, where each new resident is given a baby calf to care for and raise. It is reported by survivors that these calfs are later slaughtered, apparently in an attempt to teach the residents “how to deal with loss.” This practice is extremely cruel, and is reported to be very traumatic to many survivors.
The teenagers at Discovery Ranch as forced to adhere to a strict set of rules at all time. Any minor infraction is punished severely. Teenagers can be punished for infractions as small as “making an inappropriate facial expression”, meaning they can be punished for crying or raising their eyebrows without permission.
Teenagers at Discovery Ranch have extremely limited contact with the outside world. It is reported that they are only allowed to communicate with their parents through heavily censored and monitored letters, as well as a once-monthly phone call, which is also monitored by staff. This type of environment makes reporting abuse and neglect impossible for teenagers. In addition, survivors have reported that on the off-chance that they are able to inform their parents of abuse, their parents are manipulated by DR into believing that their child is lying and “being manipulative” in an attempt to be pulled from the program.
Abuse and Lawsuits
Discovery Ranch is reported by many survivors to be an extremely abusive program. Allegations of abuse that have been reported by survivors include:
- forcing a resident to lick cow feces off another resident’s boots
- forcing teenagers to unclog a toilet with their bare hands
- countless instances of sexual abuse
- adult male staff masturbating while watching underaged residents showering, changing, and using the toilet
- teens being fed undercooked food and deprived of food
- verbal abuse, include staff shouting and swearing at teenagers
- widespread allegations of brainwashing techniques in order to force conformity
- use of solitary confinement as punishment
According to a Thesis published in 2015 by Catherine Kushan, “Discovery Ranch, a treatment center located in Mapleton, Utah, provides an empirical example of how this industry rhetorically manipulates legitimate psychiatric conditions to solicit clients. Their website lists the following conditions the program claims to treat: various mental illnesses including “anxiety, depression, mood disorders, ADHD, and oppositional defiance” — the last of which is no longer listed in the DSM — “substance abuse and other addictions, eating disorders […] learning disorders and nonverbal learning disability […] social struggles, low self-esteem, adoption/attachment issues, and grief and loss” The unadvertised conditions that I witnessed among detainees included being LGBT, “Internet addiction”, and one girl in particular was sent there for having a black boyfriend. Aside from the obvious prejudice and discrimination, many of these “conditions” are not legitimate clinical impairments, and those that are require individualized care, which this facility does not provide.”
In February of 2015, a former resident at DR and his family filed a lawsuit against the school reporting that the boy was violently and repeatedly sexually assaulted by another resident at the program. They report that in January 2104, the boy was placed in a dorm at Discovery Ranch with three other boys, one who began grooming him and another resident for “sexual victimization” until he was “violently sodomized.” The attacker “used threats of violence, coercion, guilt, and the merit system of Discovery Ranch to manipulate (the boy) to avoid reporting increasingly deviant sexual behaviors, including discussions about sex, pornography, masturbation, and sexual violence.” According to the complaint, “Discovery Ranch’s merit system also prevented (him) from reporting the assaults because he believed that his inferior status and past interactions with Discovery Ranch staff and administrators would result in him being punished if he attempted to disclose the assaults.” The family claims the sexual assaults “went undiscovered and unchecked throughout the months of January and February and were only revealed when he [the assailant] was transferred from Discovery Ranch after being discovered engaging in bestiality with a horse.” The family says that Discovery Ranch failed to adequately investigate the assailant “for psychosexually deviant and violent tendencies before admitting him to Discovery Ranch and placing him in the dorm.” Additional Information: Family Alleges Bestiality at Alternative School
9/20/2020: (SURVIVOR) “Discovery ranch seems to actively try to remove as many negative reviews as they can, many were mine being removed over and over. This is my real name, as I’m no longer afraid to write my review under an alias. (and have it be removed weeks later). Anyone is free to fact check this, and contact me with further questions [redacted]. Discovery ranch was hell on earth for me. My first treatment center was Redcliffe ascent, and I did really well there. After I graduated I was transferred to discovery ranch. The moment I stepped foot on campus, I was treated like some sort of criminal. They gave all the kids the same level of trust, none. We were treated like we were in prison, and if we stepped out of line, we had our privileges taken away. “Privileges” to some might sound like being able to talk to friends, or having free time. Discovery ranch’s idea of “privileges” is being able to sit on something other than hard wood chairs. “Privilege” to them is being able to sit on a couch, to be able to speak out loud, to be able to eat a single apple. They strip you of everything, even contact with your own parents, and dangle it in front of you as motivation to do/act how they want. Discovery ranch uses a merit system to punish kids. One small slip up, and you have all privileges taken away from a day to sometimes even a week. This merit system was easy for some kids to abuse, in one circumstance during my stay, a child was repeatedly raped, and was threatened with the merit system to get him to keep quiet. It wasn’t until he left the program that people even found out about this happening!! Staff members are chosen at random, as the turnover rate is insanely high. (Check glassdoor reviews) In return, we have lots of untrained, unequipped young adults who aren’t prepared to deal with seriously mentally ill children. I still hear screams from my friends being restrained in the back of my mind. The trauma I’ve witnessed, and seen other kids witness was unbearable. At one point during my stay, I saw my friend stab his arm repeatedly with a pencil, spraying blood all over me and the windowsill we were sitting on. As I walked away in shock he was tackled by staff.This was after I had already seen two separate suicide attempts. They do a terrific job at keeping kids quiet. If they mention these sorts of things to parents (over heavily monitored phone calls and letters in the mail), contact between student and parent would be cut off. Any complaints about the program and the abuse kids witnessed would be brushed off by program coordinators and therapists. The amounts of times I screamed out loud in physical/mental exhaustion from being undermined and unheard is uncountable. I felt meaningless, worthless, like a pawn used to control my dads emotions, fishing out hundreds of thousands of dollars from him. They left me more broken than they found me.” – Jackson (Yelp)
September 2020: (SURVIVOR) “Please do not send your child to this horrific and abusive program. They tear children apart, and they come out broken. I will never forgive Discovery Ranch for the damage they did to me, and the damage they continue to do to future generations. Parents have no clue what they are getting themselves into by sending their children there. First, let me begin by stating that sending your kid anywhere is a traumatic experience they will have for the rest of their life. The pain doesn’t just stop, they don’t forget what you did to them, regardless of your intentions. They will dream about it years after, waking up in the middle of the night from nightmares about being back there. I was there almost ten years ago, and it feels like yesterday because of my PTSD. And before you tell me that was a long time ago, I am a part of multiple survivor groups online for former students from DR and other abusive programs in Utah. There are over 600 people in 2 different groups put together, and we are all in contact with many kids that just left. Paris Hilton just came out with a documentary on her experience at another abusive program just down the street from DR. This is not just a couple of resentful people. We were victims of abuse. I am a victim of emotional and physical abuse by Discovery Ranch. I am not the only victim. I suggest seeking different options for your child. If you absolutely need mental support for your child, I suggest something that is close to home, and something that does not limit their ability to see and interact with the outside world. These programs are money makers. They often cause way more harm than good. The decision you make for your child will stay with them forever. Listen to your child, and don’t fall into the traps that programs make which lead parents to think their child is untrustworthy, a liar, manipulator, etc. Listen to your child, what do they think they need? Are they just being a teenager? Please reach out to me for questions, I will do my best to educate you on what is happening and get you current information.” – Sanoy (Google Reviews)
9/17/2020: (SURVIVOR) “Please do not send your child to this horrific and abusive program. They tear children apart, and they come out broken. I will never forgive Discovery Ranch for the damage they did to me, and the damage they continue to do to future generations. Parents have no clue what they are getting themselves into by sending their children there. First, let me begin by stating that sending your kid anywhere is a traumatic experience they will have for the rest of their life. The pain doesn’t just stop, they don’t forget what you did to them, regardless of your intentions. They will dream about it years after, waking up in the middle of the night from nightmares about being back there. I was there almost ten years ago, and it feels like yesterday because of my PTSD. And before you tell me that was a long time ago, I am a part of multiple survivor groups online for former students from DR and other abusive programs in Utah. There are over 600 people in 2 different groups put together, and we are all in contact with many kids that just left. Paris Hilton just came out with a documentary on her experience at another abusive program just down the street from DR. This is not just a couple of resentful people. We were victims of abuse. I am a victim of emotional and physical abuse by Discovery Ranch. I am not the only victim.
- There is rape.
- There is overmedicating (including putting kids to sleep for doing nothing wrong.)
- There is child labor
- There is very little therapy
- There is a significant lack of professional supervision/lack of training
- There is a high turnover rate for employees
- There is parent manipulation/lies on the programs part for $$
- There is isolation as punishments
- There is lack of necessary medical care to avoid the girls telling a doctor they – are being abused, and they are never alone when with a doctor
- Run like a bootcamp, zero free time for the kids, every day feels like a punishment
- Mormons are running it and very religiously biased
Please…. dont do this to your child… We are all begging you. I suggest seeking different options for your child. If you absolutely need mental support for your child, I suggest something that is close to home, and something that does not limit their ability to see and interact with the outside world. These programs are money makers. They often cause way more harm than good. The decision you make for your child will stay with them forever. Listen to your child, and don’t fall into the traps that programs make which lead parents to think their child is untrustworthy, a liar, manipulator, etc. Listen to your child, what do they think they need? Are they just being a teenager? Please reach out to me for questions, I will do my best to educate you on what is happening and get you current information.” – Sanoy (Yelp)
August 2020: (SURVIVOR) “Kinda like a prison that just focuses on external behavior. Have been in contact with many former students that have not done well once leaving the ranch. I would estimate their rate of rehabilitation around 20%. You can find much better treatment for a better price. In fact, the administration at discovery ranch intentionally delayed my high school graduation by refuting me the right to do my classes in order to keep me there longer. Kids are constantly getting restrained and put on drugs to keep them under control. I ended up running away from this program and deciding on a much better program that actually wanted to help people. My parents spent over $200,000 here before they realized I was not getting the help I needed. I understand that people need to help themselves and I cannot blame Discovery Ranch for my decisions but this environment definitely did not promote positive change in my life. Also if you notice, a large majority of the 5 star ratings are from former staff as opposed to parents/students.” – William (Google Reviews)
6/1/2020: (SURVIVOR) “Through my stay I personally witnessed: Two suicide attempts. A friend of mine stabbing his arm 15+ times with a pencil. (Blood sprayed on me). Countless amounts of times seeing staff restrain kids in inhumane ways. You get used to the screaming and pleading for help, it becomes background noise. A kid was put in isolation for about 4 weeks before being moved to a different treatment center. We were indirectly expected to manipulate visiting parents of troubled kids who have not yet been sent to treatment. We would act like we loved the treatment center, and that there wasnt any abuse going on. (only the higher rank kids would be allowed to do this). Staff refusing to let kid use the bathroom, and making him pee/poop himself. Happened several times to my friends. The ranch horse manager Jerry put a phone in my face showing horses having sex. I didn’t ask to see that.. The boat bought with funds by Discovery Ranch was not once used for the kids, the owners just use it for personal use. Isn’t that tax evasion? (During my stay, a kid in a different house was repeatedly raped by another kid for days until he was caught.) Your PRECIOUS child is NOT safe here!!” – Jack (Yelp)
5/28/2020: (SIBLING) “A family member of mine attended this school so everything I have heard is 2nd hand. He said that he was abused by a staff member while there. He since has shut down and will not discuss it so no idea if it was accurate or something he said when first home to avoid being sent back. His step-father (my Dad) told me not to discuss it around him. Our parents (his Mom and step-father) regret sending him there even all these years later. My brother noted some of the staff was wonderful and he used their tips to get through challenges after his father died (my Mom’s 1st husband). However, the abuse overshadowed it. My parents (his Mom and step-father) note sending him away added to his sense of rejection started by peer abuse even though they were desperate due to his issues at home and school. However, our neighbor whose son went there the following year had all good experiences. Both boys have turned out well however, my brother has trauma from the experience. Reading these reviews it is obviously a place that needs to make some changes if the accusations are correct. My cousin went to a place 2 years ago called Shortridge Academy and had a much better experience there. My Mom says she wishes she had heard of that school at the time. My brother was at the Ranch over a decade ago.” – John (Yelp)
10/28/2019: (SURVIVOR) “There are plenty of articles that prove why Discovery Ranch is dangerous for the mental development of children. My personal experience here was horrible. I’m scared to mention my real name because Discovery Ranch’s aftercare program still controls my life. Even though I have left the program, if I don’t follow their horribly rigorous and reclusive aftercare rules I go back. The last few years of my life have felt unreal, I’ve had migraines with frustration wondering how places like this exist, and how they’ve gotten away with so much deceit. Its heart wrenching to see how many families were deeply financially destroyed as well as personal connections being permanently damaged. I’d go on to say I have PTSD. I still have insomnia and night terrors of being at that place. I have constant dreams where bugs are crawling all over my skin and I wake up screaming from anxiety. My mind sometimes uncontrollably cradles and turns to static when I hear the same radio noise as the staff used at DR. I can still hear the screams of kids being restrained and having their arms pinned behind them and blood flow cut off because they didn’t follow simple orders. This isn’t how we should treat precious children… The staff have no idea how much damage they’re doing as they’re just following orders… This is a mess…… it needs to be shut down.. The reviews on their website are COMPLETELY weeded before they’re posted. They only allow astonishing ones to pass. Proof is attached as an image. I posted this exact review several times spacing itself out several months. BE CAREFUL OF THEM.” – James (Yelp)
2019: (SURVIVOR) “This place is sickening. Abuse at its finest.. we were totally and utterly underfed, one morning we were fed one mini bagel and one cream cheese. The staff often used abusive behaviors and were very rude to us. They lied and were mainpulative, and power tripped all the time. They picked favorites and we were treated like garbage. They would restrain kids to the point the kids arm was almost broken. They would yell at us and use excessive force. It’s funny, almost all of the kids that left as a level 5 or 4 ARE DOING DRUGS AND ARE DOING WORSE AT HOME, goes to show how little the program works. If anything, kids got worse from being here. Also MAY I NOTE THAT THEY ARE SO DESPERATE THAT THEY NEED THEIR OWN STAFF MEMEBERS TO WRITE REVIEWS. THATS WHEN YOU KNOW THE PLACE IS TERRIBLE.” – Davinci (Google Reviews)
2018: (SURVIVOR) “Beware the evil behind their smiling eyes! In other words, do not trust them. They are very abusive and they will lie to you. They will do everything to keep themselves looking like the best option at all costs just for money. The average stay is OVER a year not under like they love to say. They love tossing kids emotional and mental state around for worse, or they will lie about “problems” that a kid doesn’t have just to keep kids there longer.They will try to keep kids from telling you from what is really going on, the use their security measures as a punishment Instead of safety and they can, have, and will threaten kids. They emotionally and mentally compromise kids for fun. And the horrible part? The parents believe discovery ranch and most kids have no hope of anyone listening to them because they think no one believes them and they won’t talk and they lie about it. please if you are thinking of sending anyone or know anyone who is considering to send someone here, keep the kid far away from them. No one deserves what they really do to people. It’s not just the kids too, sometimes there are good staff, but whenever there is that person never lasts long at all, they all literally quit because this place is so horrible. It sickens me that even after the kid is out of this place they threaten to send them back to this horrible place. Please save your child from this place.” – Jason (Google Reviews)
6/10/2016: (SURVIVOR) “Terrible place don’t send your child here. Also a staff there named Matt polson threatened to restrain me several times. if I saw him today i would punch him in the face. Also there were lawsuits against this place. I highly suggest people look it up, one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever read in my life: Link. Also they lie to the kids about the effects of marijuana, such as the claim that you can withdrawal from it, but I know that isn’t true. the licensed substance abuse counselor has obviously never touched a substance in her life. After discovery ranch I couldn’t even talk to my parents for months because of the trauma it caused me. If you want to send your kid to either wilderness or discovery ranch why dont you do us all a favor parents and send your child to Disney Land so they’ll be happy rather then send them to whats pretty much a mental institution for parents that have no idea what the fuck there doing. Your job as parents is to help your child, you guys are the problem not your kids. When you fail that’s on you, don’t punish your kids for your actions. If you have any logic in your brain in the slightest then you should realize how goddamn stupid it would be to send your kid to this shit hole.” – Derek (Yelp)
8/21/2015: (SURVIVOR) “It’s been about 8-9 years since I left DR; I’m now 25 and although I don’t dwell on what happened so much anymore, this place has had such a negative impact on my life. I cannot even put into words the pain I feel even today when my experience gets brought up or when I read about other kids that are STILL suffering from having to go through this program. I have maintained very close friendships with a handful of other patients that were there during my time (for a wide range of different reasons) and we even make it appoint to see each other each year. We have created this bond because unless you went through a detention center such as DR, you will not understand. We support & vent to each other about how difficult and lonely it was for us to get back to normal life after we left, how it shaped us into the adults we are today, and what steps we took to try and heal from this horrible experience. Although you move on and mature, it’s a wound that never fully heals and cuts deep. Not a single one of us agree that this program helped us or our relationships with our families. Sure, we said all the things our parents wanted to hear once we got out, it was certainly drilled into us every single day, but that faded into a deep anger/depression that raised months, sometimes even years later, & you find yourself in worse condition than you were before entering DR; battling a demon 98% of people will never know. When we have the opportunity to get together, it’s a very special and meaningful time for all of us, we reminisce about the little funny stories that helped us get through the day during our time, we think about about all the suffering we endeared and how we survived, and we always take the time to honor our close friends that didn’t and have passed. We had a close friend that took her life during our time there, we lost a friend to drug addiction that spiraled after leaving DR, and we had another friend who lost her life to cancer, which could have been detected in the earlier stages if DR didn’t fail to seek proper medical attention (she was actually punished quite often for complaining about the pain and was either made to do hard manual labor or the staff would put her in isolation for days on end. When she was given her home visit, her mom took her to the doctor and was diagnosed, although we have tried to find the outcome of the lawsuit, none of us have been able to track her family down to share our sympathy). May their souls rest in peace. If you’re a “troubled” teen that’s reading this that just recently got out, or it’s been years and it’s still effecting you, please believe me when I say that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It’s another long, tough, painful battle after you leave DR and I haven’t known one other person who didn’t suffer after getting out. Although there are no support groups for people like us and since the program is so small & we’re from all over the country, it feels and looks very real that you may be alone, YOU ARE NOT. There is not enough research of the negative effects places like DR have on a young person, people don’t like to talk or hear about places like DR, the system is extremely flawed, it’s a corporation that works very hard to keep you there as long as possible for obvious financial reasons while hiring unqualified staff. You are a survivor of an abusive environment that is very similar to a prison. It is NOT your fault and you’re NOT a lesser being despite what DR drilled into you. Parents won’t know or understand the gravity of impact this experience has had until after you get out and have openly talked about it, and although it’s very hard not to blame or take your anger out on them, you have to realize they made their decision out of love and ignorance. Stay in touch with the other people you shared your time with during DR, reach out to them when things are tough, talk about your struggles. Although the system failed us, my peers and I have created somewhat of a little support group to cope and it’s helped us tremendously. If you are at all struggling and/or would like to talk to someone who can relate, please do not hesitate to contact me through this post and I’d be happy to exchange information so we can talk. I still maintain close relationships with both girls and boys who are around my age (23-27) that have gone through exactly what you are going through now; so whether it’s easier to talk to a guy or girl or someone with a similar case to yours, I can put you in contact with them if you’d like (Free of charge too! You’re parents will love that, Ha!). We all cope in our own ways, but if we can help by sharing our experiences and what we learned, there’s not a single one of us that would turn down a younger DR peer that is currently battling our same battles. We have all suffered enough, it’s time to heal and create a system that works.” – Carebear (Yelp)
2015: (SURVIVOR) “This place is horrible. I had an IEP at my old school because I can’t learn that easily but the program directors convinced my parents I was too lazy to do work that I had trouble doing. On top of that I was forced to study 7 hours straight on the weekends if I didn’t meet academic requirements. If you have a child with attention deficit disorder do not send your son here BECAUSE it is like water boarding to have a kid sit in a room for 7 hours straight and have them study all day even though they are trying. It is degrading and disrespectful and I will forever hate this program as they manipulate people into spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to not help there kids. Its sick and I hope in the future these places will be illegal and I will NEVER send my kids to one of these places. You have been warned and I still have ptsd and I’ve been going to therapy for 2 and a half years and more to come. STOP DISCOVER RANCH they will play you out of so much money its unbelievable. There thieves taking advantage of parents dispositions and they should be shut down” – Derek (Google Reviews)
1/12/2014: (SURVIVOR) Link to Anonymous Survivor Testimony
12/1/2013: (PARENT) “After my daughter was here for here for 2 months her condition worsened and she started having suicidal thoughts which had never happened before.When I met with her Dr. I was told “Control-freak parents often produce children who feel guilty and disloyal , fearing they’ll disappoint their over-bearing parents.” I couldn’t believe he was blaming me for this…after we could no longer afford to send her there she was abruptly released and told good luck. We found a traditional therapist that proved to be far more effective. I’m happy to say that she is leading a normal life and leaving DR was the best thing that happened.” – Josephine (Yelp)
11/26/2013: (SURVIVOR) “I try to think positively about it but honestly this shithole gave me PTSD. If I’m in the car with someone and they make a wrong turn or something I will flip out and start having a panic attack because all I can think about it “oh my god where are they taking me they’re locking me up again”. The protocols here suck, and do absolutely nothing in the way of help. They are there only to try and give the staff (who by the way have no training in psychology at all) an easier time. Also, I would sit there and talk to my therapist while he takes notes and this is a direct quote “is that it?” Then the session was over. The main issue I have with this place is that it literally fucked up my education so bad that I’m 17 and still in freshman English. To them, there is one way that every kid learns, and if you have learning disabilities that’s too fucking bad and ask the doctor to raise your meds the next time he comes. Also the staff there (although there were some that I liked) were extremely rude. For a year I was put down and felt stupid and inadequate and my opinion didn’t matter and if I decided to express it I would be put on some protocol that restricted me from doing anything but sitting at a fucking desk and staring at the god damn wall. They made me feel disgusting and quite hideous. There was never any “you can do it” it was “you better do it or you’re going to be put on mc and never get out of here”. This place did not “save my life” it scared me to have problems.” – H.A. (Yelp)
11/10/2013: (SURVIVOR) Link to Anonymous Survivor Testimony
10/13/2013: (SURVIVOR) “I attended Discovery Ranch 5 years ago when I was 15 years old. My parents sent me there because I was depressed, doing poorly in school instead of getting straight A’s, got caught shoplifting a pack of gum from 7-11, spent too much time on the computer, and was “too angry and defiant”. I had never done drugs, drank, or even smoked a cigarette at this point in my life. I had been raped when i was 12 and was unable to tell my male therapist or parents about this happening because my family is very Catholic. In comparison, most of the other residents had serious drug problems, were in gangs, were extremely violent, etc. Regardless of what they were there for, NO ONE SHOULD EVER BE TREATED AS INHUMANELY AS CHILDREN SUCH AS MYSELF WERE. I had repressed memories of the physical, sexual, and psychological torture i endured for five years until I watched a documentary on the stanford prison experiment in my psychology class. It brought everything back because I lived that experience, except for ten months and it was real. I don’t believe that the people who tortured me were innately evil; i think it was a situation similar to Abu Ghraib. I was forced to do the most humiliating and degrading things possibly conceivable; I was forced to eat a girls used tampon, lick cow shit off a girls boots, unclog a toilet with my bare hands… adult male staff would masturbate to me showering, changing, and using the toilet while masturbating (keep in mind I was 15.), I witnessed a 15 year old boy be sodomized by a broom handle and have the living shit beat out of him because he tried to run away and watched a girl punch a window and slit her wrists in front of me because she couldn’t take it anymore. They would arbitrarily lock me in a tiny pitch black closet devoid of food, water, a bathroom, or human contact for days, usually because I made an “inappropriate facial expression” like crying or raising my eyebrows when they screamed at me that I was worthless and no one could ever love me. The night staff was apparently fucked up on heroin, meth, pcp, etc the whole time and had virtually no training or qualifications, which I learned when a male staff member sexually propositioned me over Facebook when I was 18, so three years later, and told me what happened behind closed doors. I had no contact with the outside world except letters to my parents which were censored, and observed phone calls once a month. I had to raise a baby cow for the slaughter to “learn to deal with loss”, exercise until I threw up blood, pick up cow shit every day, I could go on and on. And the scariest part was that it was fantastic during the day; we would do ropes courses and go skiing and horseback riding and talk to a truly kind therapist every day who genuinely though I was insane or a pathological liar and convinced me I was hallucinating or having nightmares…. But I fucking wasn’t. I literally couldn’t make this shit up. I thought I was actually crazy, but it was all real. I don’t know why but when i was there I never wanted to leave. I felt like i somehow deserved to be treated like this and I think a part of me knew I could never stand living in the real world after all this happened. I stopped feeling emotions and didn’t for two years. When I came back to real life I had forgotten how to smile and had to train myself to make facial expressions that corresponded to the emotions I should have felt in various circumstances. Even when I started feeling feelings again I realized on Wednesday that I had been experiencing emotions with maybe 50-75% of the intensity that I normally should, which was put into perspective when I finally accepted that these things truly happened to me and felt for the first time in my life the appropriate pain and humiliation that corresponds to being treated in such a way for such an extended period of time. Until now I had remembered my experience there as a happy one- I literally only remembered what went on during the day. The reason I am writing this now is because I ended up becoming an alcoholic and drug addict once I went to college and had finally had complete freedom. With the help of a REAL rehab and AA, I had achieved 14 months sober. After essentially being re-traumatized after remembering all this, I recently went on a five day bender started Wednesday where I got high and or drunk every waking moment, which culminated with me waking up on my bathroom floor on Monday morning covered in blood and vomit next to two empty bottles of wine and Xanax spilled across the floor with a five page suicide note on my computer that I’d written in a blackout. I am at a loss for what to do at this point. I’m in therapy, on medication, have been to three AA meetings in the past three days, and just feel like I am out of options and suicide or getting constantly fucked up is my only option at this point. I literally can’t live with these memories. It makes me fucking sick that this place, along with HUNDREDS of others, still exists, quietly protected under the umbrella of the state government of Utah, and that parents are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for their children to be tortured and driven insane or into obedient, soulless sociopaths.” – Anonymous (Tales from the Black School)
7/8/2013: (SURVIVOR) “DO NOT SEND YOUR CHILD TO DISCOVERY RANCH IF YOU CARE ABOUT THEM! I wish I could give negitive stars! Discovery Ranch only wants to know and talk about their truth which is nothing close to reality. When you try to induct real truths into the once a week, 1/2 hour, monitored phone call, the therapist redirects you to la la land. They dont want to discuss what’s actually wrong. They don’t give the children any hope of getting out whatsoever. The chidren can’t even have open discussions with other inmates there for fear of being punished and losing privileges. The schooling they provide is a joke. They are left up to their own with limited to no help from the teachers. The website is misleading. The facility in Utah is run like a prison. Seek other avenues for your child.” – Keith (Yelp)
6/28/2013: (PARENT) “This is the worst place to send your child. Your child will be put in with kids that are older than their age group, that were in gangs, that are addicted to drugs, etc. It is run like a prison. They don’t let parents talk freely to their own child. They want the parents to say only what they tell them to say. Overpriced, over rated…do not send your child there if you care about them. The kids come out shell shocked, traumatized and fearful.” – Michele (Yelp)
2012: (PARENT) “As a father I was treated poorly. Staff unresponsive, administration unresponsive and kept to company line to detriment of my son. Education was packets and computer testing only – poor. Basically non-existent education. Therapy was more like brainwashing than therapy. My son, although he enjoyed his stay, refused to be brainwashed, and therefore got nothing therapeutical out of his stay; only resentment and anger, and he gained knowledge how to manipulate therapists to his benefit. DO NOT RECOMMEND AT ALL!” – Jeff (Google Reviews)
HEAL Program Information – Discovery Ranch
Family Alleges Bestiality at Alternative School
The Troubled Teen Industry: Commodifying Disability and Capitalizing on Fear by Catherine Kushan (mentions Discovery Ranch)
“Strength in the Struggle” – A Marketing Video uploaded by the school to YouTube