Turnabout/Stillwater Academy (1988-present) South Jordan, UT

Residential Treatment Center

History and Background Information

Turnabout/Stillwater Academy is Straight Inc. spin-off a behavior-modification program which was founded in 1988. It was originally opened under the name “Turnabout Academy”, but its name was changed to “Stillwater Academy” in 2001 in order to lessen confusion with Turn-About Ranch, another behavior-modification program. It is marketed as a small Residential Treatment Center for troubled teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17. Stillwater states that it treats children with any of the following challenges: dishonesty, acting out, promiscuity, school truancy and failure, alcohol or drug use, running away, low self-esteem, adoption, depression, family problems, stress from a traumatic experience, executive functioning problems, or other emotional or psychological problems. The program has a maximum enrollment of 50 teenagers, and the average length of stay is reported to be between 9 and 14 months, but may be much longer. The program’s tuition is reported to be over $6,000 per month.

The program is located at 11175 S Redwood Rd, South Jordan, UT 84095. Unlike other behavior-modification programs, the residents do not sleep at the facility but instead are sent to stay at “host homes”, which are the homes of other residents who are more advanced in the program. This system is extremely remniscent of the program used by the notorious and confirmedly abusive Straight Inc. and the KIDS Centers of America.

Founders and Notable Staff

Lee W. Caldwell is the CEO and Executive Director of Stillwater Academy. He has been working at Stillwater since 1995. His prior employment is unknown.

Tanya Radomski-Turek works as the Clinical Director and a Therapist at Stillwater Academy. She has been working at Stillwater since 1996.

Rick Reimann is the current Program Director of Stillwater Academy. Reimann is a licensed Social Worker intern, which means that he’s not fully licensed and must be supervised. As such, it seems highly unlikely that he is qualified to hold the position of Program Director.

Wendy Reimann currently works as a Therapist at Stillwater Academy. She is married to the Program Director, Rick Reimann. She previously worked as an intern at the reportedly abusive Highland Ridge Hospital from 2012 until 2013. She has worked at Stillwater since 2015.

  1. Scott Jones previously worked as the Program Director of Stillwater Academy.

Program Structure

A 2007 article states that the program at Stillwater was developed based on the now-defunct and confirmedly abusive Straight Inc. Like other behavior-modification programs, Stillwater Academy uses a level-system consisting of 6 levels. The levels are reported to be:

  • Safety: When a resident arrives at Stillwater, they are put on Safety. On this level, the student is “not ready for change or even aware of a need for change.” They are only permitted to communicate with their parents via letter.
  • Awareness: The residents may present their Autobiography to their parents at this stage. As this is an ‘incubation stage’, students are becoming “more open to internal change.” They are permitted to communicate with their parents via phone.
  • Discovery: On this level, students are given more responsibilities and privileges, and are allowed to have on-campus visits with their parents.
  • Responsibility: On this level, the resident is allowed to go home for home-visits.
  • Leadership: On this level, the resident is allowed to have a job in the local community.
  • Integrity: On this level, residents are allowed to work part-time, attend classes and make frequent home visits.

Abuse Allegations

Stillwater Academy is reported by many survivors to be an abusive program. Allegations of abuse and neglect at Stillwater include the use of excessive and often violent restraints, rampant physical abuse, over-medication, emotional/verbal abuse, and even sexual abuse. Many survivors report experiencing PTSD as a result of their time at Stillwater.

Survivor/Parent Testimonials

10/5/2020: (SURVIVOR) “In my previous review I didn’t go into much detail for fear of retaliation but here is some additional info if you are thinking of sending your child here. I was physically abused at the hands of the Stillwater staff during my time there. They send the kids there to different homes around the Salt Lake City area every night to sleep and often times the “housing parents” were even more physically abusive. I was 13-14 when I was there and they quietly moved me to a new therapist when I tried telling them the therapist I had was grooming me and making uncomfortable sexual comments about me and making me undress to see my self harm scars on my legs frequently even though I had not self harmed on my legs for a long time before I was even admitted to the program. I was misdiagnosed multiple times and put on medication for Bipolar and Schizo-affective disorder even though you are not supposed to diagnose children with either disorder. I had a seizure there and was accused of making it up. I have a genetic disease that has given me similar issues most of my life and the staff there pretended it did not exist. My health severely deteriorated as a result of the neglect I experienced at Stillwater. They underfeed pretty much everyone there but give extra food to kids who go to seminary which is essentially Mormon religious school. So kids will go to their religious brainwashing sessions for extra food because they didn’t feed us enough in the first place. Some of the housing parents would give us like a single hotdog and that’s dinner. During the day we were not allowed to speak outside of group and had to ask for the bathroom and water and other basic necessities by using hand signs. Often times when we would request basic things like water or the bathroom those things were denied. I watched as the staff poked fun at a girl covered in her own blood from self harming. They left her on the floor covered in her blood in the middle of the room while the other 30 kids watched on. None of us could even speak out, they drill fear and shame into the kids there so no one will speak out against the abuse happening there. The first few months I was there I tried to speak out against some of this stuff but very quickly you become afraid of the staff and retaliation from staff. I am ashamed of many of the things I became a bystander to while at Stillwater. I have frequent nightmares of the things I was forced to witness here and the sexual and physical abuse I received from the staff at TA. I was not allowed to talk to either of my parents until a couple months into my stay and even then I was only allowed to talk to them while supervised by staff. If I talked bad about the program at all the call would be terminated. That’s standard practice here. Since leaving I was able to tel my mother of the abuse that happened here and I can tell it’s one of her biggest regrets. An educational consultant recommended the place and she was just trying to do what she thought would help me. The deceptive practices Stillwater uses to attract vulnerable families for profit and religious indoctrination is despicable. Many of these “educational consultants” receive kickbacks from the programs to recommend them. If you are a parent looking to help your kid, please do not consider this program. There are programs out there that are much better, just please do extensive research first. I can tell you that many of the 5 star reviews on here are Stillwater staff. If you read this and it doesn’t convince you not to send your kid here, I’m not sure what will. If I could erase my time at Stillwater from my mind I’m sure I would be in a much better position today. Not a day goes by that I don’t suffer in some way as a result of the abuse I received here. I am scared to make eye contact with people, I struggle to initiate conversation, I have frequent panic attacks, and I have constant nightmares and struggle to sleep. I had some issues before Stillwater but not to nearly the extent I do now. Turnabout did nothing positive for me or anyone else I know from my time there. Everyone I know from my stay there that I am still in contact with is worse off for it. Many kids I know from there are dead of overdoses or suicide. I am constantly reminded of things that happened there in the most awful and uncomfortable ways. I can’t watch horror movies anymore because female crying or screaming causes me PTSD episodes. I attribute this directly to my witnessing Stillwater staff beat on and throw a 14 year old girl around because she was self harming.” – Gio (Yelp)

October 2020: (SURVIVOR) “Children from this school don’t often speak of their experience. I was there 15 months and i was abused and watched other children be abused. They have a history of using inhumane methods to “break” the children and use the metaphor of breaking a horse when explaining it to parents. During my time there I was refused the right to speak for 3 months and was forced to write any of my “needs’ on a piece of paper. I lost “pillow rights” and blanket rights, the right to look up outside ( was forced to look down at my shoes including in the car) for 4 months until I “earned the privilege” and these were punishments every child in the program experienced at one point in their program. They use intimidation tactics, belittling, ranking children and pitting children against one another. They lie about horse therapy. It doesn’t happen more than 1x in a 6-9 month period. They have every child that enters the program or misbehaves be forced to be 24 hrs restrained by two children physically handcuffing each wrist of a misbehaving child the entire day except for sleep, for weeks and months, even holding each wrist even while eating and followed them into the bathroom as well. They turned children into human handcuffs. Every child entering the program was forced to endure this for weeks and if they did not submit to the authority of the counselors they would have all day human handcuff’s for months. I had this done to me, on and off, for at least 4 months total if not longer. They will say whatever you need to hear to make you put your child there because at the end of the day they are private for profit institution. Look at their qualifications. What high rated universities did the counselors go to outside of Utah. None. They have changed their name to their academic school’s name Stillwater from Turnabout to try to shed their past and the past of similar centers, but they are run by the same owner who has no real qualifications in psychology child focused therapy and many of the same “counselors” that interact with the child daily have nothing more than a bachelors. The therapists like tanya they would see 1x a wk. You can send your child to a real therapist 5x a week for less than money then sending them here full of time wasting “group” therapy with no focus on daily or regular 1 on 1s. Sending your child to any UTAH residential treatment that will force you to not speak directly with your child for weeks (under the guise of transition) will likely end up causing life long trauma to your child because they are disconnecting direct communication for a reason. Look up “breaking code silence”. Lookup “Straight Incorporated and turnabout/Stillwater” These “schools” are an epidemic in Utah.This school is just one of hundreds in UTAH, more than any other state, that has systematically abused children under dehumanizing for years under the guise of “treatment”. They have even forced to change many practices but their history and initial principles go unchanged. They may have CHANGED their name from Turnabout to Stillwater to hide their legacy of abuse, but the truth is they need to be SHUT DOWN, all of them, and a class act lawsuit will one day be brought against Lee and his “school” and it’s legacy of child abuse will no longer be a secret. It’s only a matter of time.” – Mountain Homes (Google Reviews)

7/14/2020: (SURVIVOR) “I was sent here when I was 15 (2005-2006) .The program from my understanding is much different these days. When I was there the staff subjected us to mental and physical abuse. I’m 30 with no need to make up what l I’m saying. They brainwashed us. Made us believe we were terrible kids. Staff calling girls whores. Staff breaking kids noses. Staff slamming children to the floor. If your a grown adult and some 14 year old kid is getting an attitude with you physical violence shouldn’t even come to mind. If you are considering this please rethink your options. Talk to you me child. Relate to your child. They need your help and leaving them in the care of strangers is not the answer. I’ve had therapy as an adult to undo some of the damage they have done to me as a child. My Parents have also expressed multiple times over my lifetime how sending me there was a mistake. They are salesman. They sell you on the idea of the pictures you see if smiling kids. And you end up in debt. These positive reviews have to be family members or fake accounts. There is a group of about 60 of us from different years that the sole part of the group is so we can talk about what happened in there. We are adults now!!! And still need support from being in there. If someone reads this and wants to know what it was really like I’ll take up your whole day of first hand events I witnessed and that happened as also the accounts of others.” – Tanner (Yelp)

2019: (SURVIVOR) “If I could give it zero stars I would. This place may have changed a little bit since I was there, but it is an extremely abusive environment. They do not allow students to communicate with parents about what is happening and parents are manipulated into thinking it helps their child. My mother and I talked after I left the program and she was horrified about what I went through there. She told me she wished she would have known, because she would have removed me. She is dead now and this place damaged our relationship and tried to keep me away from my mother as much as possible (since dad was the one writing the checks and the person who sent me). I was tricked into going here 10 years ago and still have problems because of what I experienced. I was forced to obey and agree with everything they said, because that was the only way to get out. I have talked to many professionals who disagree with the abusive practices that took place at turnabout. The food they forced us to eat was so unhealthy that I had stomach problems the entire 9 months I was there. This place should have been shut down years ago. I acted out because of abuse and this place just did more damage. Like a previous review said, ask how many students have died after graduating from this program? Ive seen countless kids who didnt even have a drug problem until they went here leave and overdose or commit suicide. This place is disgusting and so are all the staff who run it.” – Caitlin (Google Reviews)

2019: (SURVIVOR) “Before you send your kids here, ask how many former clients have died of the issues they came here for after “cradling.” Ask how many have died of behaviors they never engaged in before this program. How many have died, with parents still in debt? 10 years later I am receiving counseling not for the issues I had prior to this program, but due to the mental and emotional abuse I suffered in the program. The ones I had prior to being in here were more easily fixed than the ones that resulted from this program. Trauma like that does not so easily heal. I cannot trust anyone, and constantly am looking over my shoulder. If you love your kids, let them go to jail for their actions but do not send them here. At least in a Juvenile Detention Center they may receive some real therapy where they aren’t told their feelings are manipulation.” – Meghan (Google Reviews)

7/13/2017: (PARENT) “When my child went there, the parents of patients took 4 children home a night. They fed them, made sure they bathed and did their laundry. The parents had total responsibility for children that they didn’t even know, without any knowledge of their medical or psychological problems. Sometimes my child told me that certain parents would only feed them frozen corn dogs and water. Sometimes they were only allowed to use two sheets of toilet paper when they went to the bathroom. They weren’t even allowed to use conditioner in their hair. In addition to that, I don’t believe there were any background checks done on any of the parents that were housing children. As a consequence one of the fathers that had been housing with his wife was accused of sexual abuse to his daughter. All of this happening while we were paying a lot of money. They also had this horrible little man named Dr. Hinckley, who called my daughter a slut and a whore upon her arrival to turnabout during a group therapy session. There were also counselors there that had no training whatsoever and were actually relatives of the owner. All in all it seemed like a racket to me. Make sure if your child is going there from out of state that the parents that your children will be living with have had stringent background checks. Buyer beware….yikes” – Kathleen (Yelp)

6/26/2016: (SURVIVOR) “It was mainly a lockdown facility but we were sent to homes around salt lake at night to spend the night in alarmed rooms with families. Often times you would have to spend the night in a room with kids who were there for molestation or rape. I constantly feared attacks from the staff, and the rules were completely oppressive. No verbal communication, no eye contact, not allowed to speak to parents for months. They would take the breaking of small rooms as threats and “restrain you” which basically was throwing you around. I fell asleep once while we were cleaning because of a medication issue and i got thrown into a window which completely massed up my back. They used public humiliation as punishment, and created an environment where backstabbing your friends got you rewards. We were denied basic right like water and the bathroom. I saw a kid get in a fight with a staff member and he was beat up. If you were defiant in any way they would diagnose you with odd and medicate you with depressants until you could barely move. They would force medication on you and the psychiatrist was a complete crook working for them. It was pretty fucked up but Ive heard worse.” – u/MyBlueberryTits (Reddit)

Related Media

Stillwater Academy Website Homepage

HEAL Program Information – Stillwater Academy

Secret Prisons for Teens – Turnabout/Stillwater Academy

Just Call Them Crazy (WireTap, 6/12/2003)

Just Call Them Crazy: Alex Asch on Forced Institutionalization (video) (Vimeo, 2003)

‘The Trouble with Troubled Teen Programs’ by Maia Szalavitz (Reason Magazine, January 2007)

Alex Asch’s Story – Fornits