The Troubled Teen Industry in Film, Documentaries, AND Television

20/20 ABC: A Boy Named Lucas – A 16-year-old gay teen whose mother sent him to a series of Christian-run youth camps that practice so-called “gay conversion therapy” talks about his experience.

Aaron Bacon – AARON BACON (starring Stephen Michael Kane) is inspired by the book “Help at Any Cost” by Maia Szalavitz, based on the true story of a 16 year-old kid who dies at the hands of malpractice and abuse in the tough-love, wilderness drug-treatment facility.

Boot Camp – A group of at-risk teens are sent to what they think is a rehabilitation program in Fiji, but it’s really a prison-like camp where kids are abused and brainwashed.

Boy Erased – Jared Eamons, the son of a small-town Baptist pastor, must overcome the fallout after being outed as gay to his parents. His father and mother struggle to reconcile their love for their son with their beliefs. Fearing a loss of family, friends and community, Jared is pressured into attending a conversion therapy program. While there, Jared comes into conflict with its leader and begins his journey to finding his own voice and accepting his true self.

Coldwater – A teenage boy is sent to a juvenile reform facility in the wilderness. As we learn about the tragic events that sent him there, his struggle becomes one for survival with the inmates, counselors, and the retired war colonel in charge.

Congressional “Hearing on “Child Abuse and Deceptive Marketing by Residential Programs for Teens”” – This is the second House Committee on Education and Labor “Hearing on “Child Abuse and Deceptive Marketing by Residential Programs for Teens”. The hearing was held on April 24th, 2008. The history here is that Rep. George Miller (D-CA) requested an investigation into this industry and sent the request to then Attorney General John Ashcroft who refused to investigate dating back to 2004 and earlier. Miller then requested a Government Accountability Office (GAO )investigation. These hearings provided an opportunity for the GAO and others to testify regarding their experiences and findings in regards to false advertising, fraud, and institutional child abuse.

Cruel Instruction – Inspired by actual events. The story of 16-year-old Kayla Adams (Kelcey Mawema) whose mother, Karen (Cynthia Bailey) is advised by the school’s counselor to send Kayla to get treatment at a youth residential treatment center after she gets expelled from school. Kayla arrives at the Utah facility on the same day as her roommate Amanda (Morgan Taylor Campbell), a treatment program veteran who knows exactly what the girls were in for. Led by headmistress Miss Connie (Camryn Manheim), the staff uses draconian methods including force-feeding medications, arbitrary punishments, solitary confinement, verbal and physical abuse to keep the students in line. After being pushed to their limits and stripped of their lifelines, including any ability to freely communicate with the outside world, the two young women must band together to survive and fight to expose the abuse before it’s too late. (2022)

Dark Side of Bain Success – Romney Profits From Bain-owned Health Company Facing Wrongful Death, Neglect Allegations

Dateline Broken Circle – An investigation of abuse allegations against one of the owners of the religious reform school, Circle of Hope.

Emancipated – The Troubled Teen Industry abuses and tortures children for profit. A group of survivors, ex-abusers and whistleblowers come together to tell their story and try to get this behemoth shut down for good.

Fix My Kid – This film by no means tells the full story of Straight (you can’t possibly do so in 90 minutes) but our mission for this piece was to provide a documentary that could be shared with family members, other survivors, and friends, to shed light on this incredibly abusive institution. The purpose is to provide a stranger with a basic understanding about what happened to the clients of Straight and the lasting effects it has had on their lives. This is only the tip of the ice-berg of years of research, interviews with survivors, and experts.

Girl on the Edge – A troubled teenager falls victim to an online predator. Unable to cope with the trauma, Hannah Green becomes self-destructive, and her parents make the heartbreaking decision to send her away to an alternative healing center in the wilderness.

Kidnapped for Christ – A young evangelical filmmaker is granted unprecedented access inside a controversial Christian behavior modification program for troubled teens, where she discovers shocking secrets and young students that change her life.

Kids for Cash – KIDS FOR CASH is a riveting look behind the notorious scandal that rocked the nation when it first came to light in 2009. Beginning in the wake of the shootings at Columbine, a small town in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania elected a charismatic judge who was hell-bent on keeping kids in line. Under his reign, over 3,000 children were ripped from their families and imprisoned for years for crimes as petty as creating a fake MySpace page. When one parent dared to question this harsh brand of justice, it was revealed that the judge had received millions of dollars in payments from the privately-owned juvenile detention centers where the kids—most of them only in their early teens—were incarcerated.

Lifeboat – A gripping & uncomfortable film based on real-life “therapeutic boarding schools”. The line between abuse & tough love is blurred when a counselor (Stephen Dorff) leads six teenagers in an intriguing game of survival.

Locked in Paradise – A BBC feature about child abuse and violence at Tranquility Bay, Jamaica, part of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools. Tranquility Bay is the last resort for parents who cannot “control” their kids, where good behavior and obedience are learned through what they call “Tough Love”, and what most people would call abuse. As a BBC reporter put it, “they’re criminalizing adolescence.”

Over the GW – Two drug-addicted siblings (George Gallagher, Kether Donohue) are subjects of abuse and brainwashing at a New Jersey rehabilitation center.

Dateline’s Paradise Cove – This is an episode of Dateline that aired in the 90s that centered around WWASP and Paradise Cove in Samoa

Primetime News Report on Tranquility Bay – WWASP Abusive Prison Style Boarding School for Teens, Tranquility Bay in Jamaica. Parents have their kids kidnapped to be sent here. This news special aired in the late 90’s the program has since shut down.

Inside Edition – Straight, Incorporated was a controversial program in the United States that existed from 1976 to 1993, which held clients ranging in age from 12 to 21 incommunicado in warehouses; the youngest documented detainee was aged 11. This video is an Inside Edition exposé on Straight Inc.

The Experience – Scarlet forms an instant bond with a girl named Dylan at a wilderness camp for troubled youth. Tormented by memories of her deceased mother, Scarlet believes she has finally found someone with whom she can share her family secrets. However, as she opens up, an unexpected twist of events unfolds and the new friendship is soon devastated by betrayal.

The Group – The Group is a network of adolescent drug abuse programs created by Bob Meehan and operated by his son-in-law and protege Clint Stonebraker. Ostensibly aimed at helping young people overcome drug addiction, all evidence points to an organization that aims for profits and operates on a cult-like mentality. The Group is a feature-length documentary that retraces the director’s five year journey through the world of adolescent drug abuse programs.

The Last Stop – The Elan School was the last stop. Set deep in the woods of Maine, Elan delivered controversial therapy to troubled teens. It was a meat grinder of raw emotion and harsh discipline. Some say it sold hope, others say it sold Hell.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – In 1993 after teenage Cameron is caught in the backseat of a car with the prom queen, she is sent away to a treatment centre in a remote area called God’s Promise. While she is being subjected to questionable gay conversion therapies, she bonds with some fellow residents as they pretend to go along with the process while waiting to be released.

The Wilds – Teenage girls from radically different backgrounds find themselves stranded on a remote island, unaware they’ve just become the subjects of an elaborate social experiment.

This Is Paris – Socialite, businesswoman, and actress Paris Hilton reveals intimate stories and never-before-heard details about her life.

Tough Love – 48 Hours’ “Tough Love” special that aired in 1998. This special featured WWASP, Paradise Cove, and Tranquility Bay

Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story – Based on a harrowing true story, when 15-year-old Alex (Addison Holley) revealed she was gay to her devout Mormon parents, they feared so deeply for her soul that they took her from their Southern California home and placed her against her will in a conversion therapy home in Utah. Trapped for eight months with strangers (Sarah Booth and Ian Lake), Alex faced horrible punishments and beatings that were intended to cure her homosexuality.

Who’s Watching The Kids? – There are more than 30 privately run schools for troubled youth operating in the state of Montana. They employ more than 600 people and pump an estimated 4 million into the state income taxes. It’s an exploding industry, but strangely, most Montanans have no idea the schools even exist.

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