Since 1972, the American-run Evangelical Christian reform school known as "Escuela Caribe" has been abusing pre-teens and teens. Located in the Dominican Republic, the establishment puts students through six phases of "orientation," "disillusionment," "internalization," and "stabilization."
Upon arrival, students are not allowed to make a phone call home until they've attended for six months. During the phone call, they are not allowed to share any details of the harsh and abusive conditions at the school. Students on the zero (1) and first levels are forbidden to speak to each other, make eye contact, or make any statement that acknowledges each others existence. Pupils are required to write home each week. However, the staff rereads, and, if deemed unacceptable, rewrites the letters in order to make the school appear as a better place. Too many rewrites can be considered an "authority problem," and the student that caused the rewrites is most usually subject to a leather whip treatment, designed to whip mules. After six months, students are allowed to send e-mails home, but these messages are subject to the same, ridiculous rules.
Besides the "mule whipping," common punishments are hours of hard labor, belt whippings, or "staff haircuts" - the shaving or cropping of random parts of hair. If a student is caught having diarrhea, the student is forced to carry a bucket around with him or her to "empty in" for staff speculation. A treatment that the staff tries to hide by excluding it from the handbook is the "Quiet Room." Usually, a student in the Quiet Room wakes up at 5a.m., and after an hour of calisthenics eats a meager breakfast followed by twelve hours of hard labor, such as hammering rocks or running wheel-barrels up a mountain. After work, another hour of calisthenics is performed, then walls are scrubbed until "lights out," which merely means the student can lie down on the cold tile floor and try to sleep, often in only underwear. The light is left on in the Quiet Room at night, and the windows are merely holes in the cinder block walls, so the jungle's mosquitos feast upon the bodies of those unfortunate enough to stay the night in the QR.
There is a wide variety of punishments that vary at the "creativity" of the staff member. Students in Huyck House were made to pick sludge in a compost heap with the hose running for days. Benjamin Spence (a worker at Escuela Caribe) made a pair of horse-blinders out of plywood that he forced a student to wear. The same staff member made a rock-sled for the same student, which was essentially a box filled with rocks that was tied to the student, which he drug around for two weeks. Some staff members often publicly draw attention to the more humiliating punishments, as it is believed to build character.
The school's rule book only covers basic program rules. Each house, classroom, and staff member have their own set of unwritten and often conflicting expectations. Punishments proscribed in the rule book are also often deceptive. "Stealing" could be taking too large of a share at dinner. "Sexual misconduct" could be anything from flirting or holding hands to kissing.
In light of the abuse, the documentary entitled "Kidnapped for Christ" is set to be released later this year. The film interviews teens with first-hand accounts of Escuela Caribe. Many students in the documentary are only enrolled at the school because of parental force. One teen describes his account of parental physical abuse: "They tied a belt around my waist... dragged me with a belt to their car." It is revealed that the parents of many of the students lied to others about their child's location.
Teens and pre-teens are often sent to Escuela Caribe due to homosexuality, supposedly aggressive nature, or other ridiculous criteria determined by the parents. The facility has been called a "dumping ground for rich Evangelists."
Please join me and help stop the massacre of young children and young adults.
"I still consider being held at Escuela Caribe to be a kidnapping." - Alumni