The Many Sides of Straight - 1986-10-16
Lawsuits have been filed against Straight facilities by parents and children, alleging everything from virtual imprisonment of patients to verbal and physical attacks. Lawyers and their clients contend that teens in the program, intensely pressured by unlicensed and inadequately trained peers, exaggerate their confessions of drug use in order to appear candid and judged ready to move up the five stages of the program.
Straight officials deny the specific allegations of physical mistreatment, and say the restrictive program is necessary to help parents get control of their children and children get control of themselves. And they say past mistakes have been remedied. "In the past 24 months we have made dramatic strides in improving both the structure and our services," said Mel Riddile, Straight's national executive director.
Straight facilities run patients through daylong encounter sessions, plus open evening meetings twice weekly with parents. Group rap sessions are characterized by a wild waving of raised hands, termed "motivating" -- an intense form of asking to be called on. "If you don't do it, they make you stand up and curse at you, " says John Boland, who ran away from the Cincinnati program and became drug-free at a more orthodox treatment center. "The peer pressure is intense. They make you feel you have to tell the worst possible story, make you feel you're supposed to cry."