I went to one of these, Redcliff Ascent, when I was 17 (back in 2000). Parents seperated, bounced back in forth in legal battles, physical abuse on one side, verbal on the other. Typical teenage fun.
First, the program out there was a joke. It was nothing but forced punishment with some half assed attempts at counseling inbtween. Hindsight makes it easier to see, but even then I could see most of the kids/teens out there didn't deserve to be there, and the other maybe 20% needed to be somewhere where they would get real help. Hiking for hours a day in the desert, leaving off of rice and lentils twice a day, with a piece of fruit or an onion every other week, is not therapy.
The therapy sessions they did have, were little more than walking through the motions, something any 14 year old could do after a day of binge watching Dr. Phil. After 6 months of talking circles around these volunteer community college counselors, they had to just let me go. No graduation, no you passed.. just sorry, we can't help you, but tell your parents thanks for the money.
Coming home? I don't think there was one person there that wasn't worse off, with some major animosity. Stories of the "troubled teen" coming home all prim and proper are greatly over exaggerated. When I returned, I left. I joined the Army and after returning moved to the other side of the country. Took years to ever even begin talking to one parent, and still won't talk to the other.
It wasn't all terrible out there. I mean, except for hiking all day, being dirty constantly, getting little to no food at all, sleeping in the rain, dirt and even at times snow, I guess that wasn't too bad. I think what was worse, was that there wasn't even a semblance of caring or therapy. "Oh look at this brochure! Cabins, a lake, a group of smiling teens in shiny new red shirts around a fire with the campy counselor playing some trail song on his acoustic! What fun!"
No.. it was none of that. It was strip you naked, take everything away from you, and give you some dull used clothes. Blindfold you and drive you out into the desert, and drop you off with a group of stinking, dirty and downtrodden teens that would've look more in place in an Auschwitz documentary, a wilderness camp. From here you learn the cycle of wake up, eat rice, walk, walk, walk and walk some more until it's dark, eat rice, write a poem or talk about your feelings ("I'm feeling pretty pissed off" was the most common) then sleep and repeat. At least in jail you would've gotten 3 meals a day, a tv, a mattress and a shower.
What did I learn? Nothing, just animosity. Sure, I made some dumb mistakes as a kid. I smoked pot, I skipped a few classes and snuck out at night a few times. Was that deserving of being taken from school, denied graduation, losing my friends and being abandoned in the desert for 6 months? I'd say no... all it accomplished was a rift in the family that was never fixed. Though I suppose that in and of itself was a valuable lesson. You can't count on anyone but yourself.
- The original testimony found in the comments (Reddit)
- Factsheet about the program (Fornits Wiki)