Stop Amnesties for Enablers or Perpetrators of Torture

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Stop Amnesties for Enablers or Perpetrators of Torture

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To Attorney General Eric Holder Jr, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,  Washington, DC 20530-0001

We, as human rights advocates, ask that you consider that those who enable torture must face effective and ethical prosecution by the Department of Justice. Scott Bloch as former U.S. special counsel had been appointed to head the federal agency responsible for protecting the rights of federal workers and ensuring that government whistleblowers are not subjected to reprisals. As human rights defenders we have grave concern that Attorney Scott J. Bloch, had not protected the vulnerable children of this nation when he choose to summarily dismiss the whistleblower reports of mandated reporters of child abuse. Our children are a sacred trust given to us by God and it is our moral and ethical duty to protect them. It is a moral imperative to treat each human being with reverence and dignity.

Thus we invite you to affirm with us that torture — the deliberate effort to undermine human dignity — is a legally and morally wrong. The systemic use of cruel and degrading treatment and even torture on children and young adults in residential treatment centers is fundamentally immoral.  We hold our appointed governmental officials in the US Department of Justice accountable for the protection of basic human rights. We urge you to declare that any attempt to undermine international standards on due process, informed consent, freedom of opinion and expression, right to choice of religious belief, torture, or habeas corpus is wrong.  We are concerned that Scott Bloch as former Deputy Director and counsel to the Department of Justice's Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives was responsible for failing to protect the human rights of US citizens in the residential treatment programs such as Teen Challenge and other non-governmental organizations funded by that office.

Scott Bloch then was promoted to the position of Chief Counsel for the Office of Special Counsel or OSC. Scott Bloch in that position summarily dismissed hundreds of whistleblower complaints including any complaints about Teen Challenge.  These federal governmental whistleblowers were in agencies such as Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSHA), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), U.S. Department of Labor , Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  All federal medical fraud, labor abuse, prison abuse and those child abuse whistleblower cases handled directly by federal agencies would ultimately be appealed to the Office of Special Counsel.  Scott Bloch came under criticism for allegedly retaliating against his own employees and closing whistleblower cases without investigating them. Thus Scott Bloch closed cases involving complaints by human rights defenders who were federal employees.  While he was under investigation for those allegations, Bloch had his government computer and those of two of his staffers wiped clean of information in December 2006 by a private computer repair company, Geeks on Call.  The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform questioned Bloch about the computer scrub in March 2008.

Attorney Scott Bloch disrespected both US federal and international law when he dismissed whistleblowers complaints about child abuse and other serious concerns for the public health and welfare without investigation and thus he enabled these human rights violations to continue. Thus as a US Attorney Scott Bloch has shown a troubling disregard for international laws against torture, for the legal rights of children and adults and for the long term adverse consequences his decisions have had on the victims/survivors, whistleblowers and their human rights defenders.

Scott Bloch was allowed to plead guilty to criminal contempt of the US Congress in the case USA v Scott
Bloch and was facing a minimal jail sentence of perhaps one month.  Bloch admitted as part of his guilty plea that he withheld information from the congressional staff and that before he ordered the wipe of the computers he understood the procedure would make it virtually impossible to recover deleted files or e-mails. The former government protector of whistleblowers who admitted to criminally withholding information from Congress has now asked the judge to withdraw his guilty plea to avoid mandatory jail time.  Scott Bloch said in a court filing that he did not know when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal contempt of Congress that he would face a minimum of a month behind bars.  This would seem to indicate that he views himself above the law, while his neglect of duty resulted in critical violations of human rights for vulnerable children and adults.

We therefore call upon you:

To refuse to endorse the kind of compromise that gives rise to de jure or de facto amnesties for enablers or perpetrators of torture;

To denounce the use of torture under any circumstances;

To affirm, with the Supreme Court, that it is unconstitutional to imprison anyone for months without
access to lawyers or the right to challenge their detentions in court;

To affirm the binding legality of the United Nations General Assembly Declaration on Human Rights
Defenders, CAT, ICERD, ICCPR, OP-CRC-SC, OP-CRC-AC, the Palermo Protocol, and the Geneva Conventions.

And to reject the practice of abusive treatment in residential treatment centers at home and abroad.

We believe that the United States must be an example of moral leadership in the world community.
We cannot as a nation hold our head high when we fail to protect our own children on our own soil. However, the incidents in many of these teen residential treatment facilities have gravely compromised America’s moral authority. We ask that you commit yourself as Attorney General to repairing that damage by articulating and enforcing legal policies that reject the use of cruel and degrading treatment and torture, embrace and advance standards of international law, and honor the dignity of all human persons. 



Congressional Investigations:

The US House under the leadership of Congressman George Miller conducted investigations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) during the 110th Congress uncovered thousands of cases and allegations of child abuse and neglect since the early 1990’s at teen residential programs. Currently, these programs are governed only by a weak patchwork of state and federal standards. A separate GAO report, also conducted by at the committee’s request, found major gaps in the licensing and oversight of residential programs – some of which are not covered by any state licensing standards at all. GAO concluded that without adequate oversight “the well-being and civil rights of youth in some facilities will remain at risk.” State reported data to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System in 2005 found that 34 states reported 1503 incidents of youth maltreatment by residential facility staff. Of the states surveyed by GAO, 28 reported at least one youth fatality in a residential facility in 2006. GAO concluded both of these statistics understate the incidents of maltreatment and death.


In 1971 the United States Senate's Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights under the directorship of Senator Sam Ervin began an investigation of the US government's role in behavior modification. Senator Ervin's 650 page report was published in November 1974 under the title "Individual Rights and the Federal Role in Behavior Modification."



Obligations of US Attorneys and officials of the US Department of Justice:

42 U.S.C. ' 13031 All Federal law enforcement personnel have obligations under State and Federal law to report suspected child abuse.

A crime victim  also file an administrative complaint if Department employees fail to respect the victim’s rights. The Attorney General must take and “investigate complaints relating to the provision or violation of the rights of a crime victim” and provide for disciplinary sanctions for Department employees who “willfully or wantonly fail” to protect those rights. (18 U.S.C. ' 3771(f)(2))


United States of America Obligations under International Law

United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders A/RES/58/178 of 22 December 2003 The United Nations Charter and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 8 March 1999

 CAT - ratified  Oct. 21, 1994 The UN Convention against Torture

ICERD - ratified Oct. 21, 1994 The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

ICCPR - ratified June 8, 1992  The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 

The Palermo Protocol - ratified

The Geneva Conventions or Aug. 12, 1949 and additional protocols I and II - all ratified

OP-CRC-SC - ratified Dec. 23, 2002 (art. 3 para 1 and 4 para 1)

OP-CRC-AC ratified Dec. 23, 2002


International and human rights infrastructure: 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5 No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

In 2006, CAT recommended that the USA ensure that the Convention applies at all times, whether in peace, war or armed conflict and the provisions of the Convention expressed as applicable to "territory under the State party's jurisdiction" apply to all persons under the effective control of its authorities. 

The Committee against Torture (CAT) invited the USA to reconsider its intention not to become a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  CRC made a similar recommendation. 

As of July 12, 2010, the United States does not have a national human rights institution accredited by the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.  CERD recommended that the US consider the establishment of a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles.  CRC and th Working Group of experts on people of African Descent made similar recommendations. 

CERD recommended that the State ensure a coordinated approach towards the implementation of the Convention at the federal, state and local levels.  CAT noted that the USA had a federal structure and had an obligation to implement the Convention against Torture in full at the domestic level.  Likewise, CRC recommended strengthening coordination in the areas covered by OP-CRC-SC, both at the federal and state levels.  

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the right to life and freedom of association and expression, should be protected from violations not only by State agents, but also private persons or entities. Human Rights Committee, general comment No. 31 on article 2 of the Covenant on the nature of the general legal obligation imposed on States parties to the Covenant, 26 May 2004.

A/RES/58/178 of 22 December 2003 The United Nations Charter and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 8 March 1999, adopted the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, known as the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and subsequent resolutions.

The United States has a responsibility in relation to actions and omissions of non-State actors Article 12, paragraph 3, of the Declaration, also reiterated by numerous human rights bodies, the Human Rights Committee and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

UN CAT, Article 1. 1 “For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

History of Abuse in Residential Treatment Facilities:

The Seed, a network of teen drug rehabilitation centers was closed after a US Congressional Investigation into child abuse at their facilities.

Melvin Sembler, Betty Sembler and some other Seed parents formed their own Seed-like program which they called Straight, Inc.   Straight was quickly accused of criminal child abuse by Florida's licensing and investigating agency the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) with Bob Marshall as the principal investigator.  But Straight Inc. still went on to become the largest juvenile drug rehabilitation program in the world and one of the most destructive. There were many lawsuits by victims of abuse with large jury awards of damages.  Other suits were settled out of court.  In 1985 the Semblers fearing civil suits by the victims of the abuse and fearing possible criminal prosecution, changed the mission of Straight, Inc. from "treatment" to "education" and its name from "Straight, Inc." to "Straight Foundation, Inc."


Straight Inc. managed to get two startup grants from the Law Enforcement Assistance Agency (LEAA) in 1976 and again in 1977 for $50,000 each. Unlike the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Law Enforcement Assistance Agency (LEAA) had not been setup to fund programs involved in human experimentation and thus it had no policy for human consent forms.


There was then a US Congressional investigation into the abuses in Straight Inc.  Straight Inc was shut down after that Congressional investigation.  

After Straight Inc. had to be closed, the name of the educational foundation became the Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF). So today Straight has morphed into an organization called the Drug Free America Foundation, which specializes in helping small businesses set up Drug Free Workplaces, and in promoting national and international drug policy that allows coercive and abusive treatment methods.

Lester Roloff, who founded Roloff Homes, had a showdown with the Texas Attorney General and left Texas in 1985.  Wiley Cameron Sr., assumed control of the Roloff Holmes and strategically lobbied for the alternative accreditation law. Then Cameron was appointed to serve on the board of directors of Texas Association of Christian Child Care Agencies (TACCCA).  Roloff Homes moved back to Texas and was able to open 5 facilities accredited by the TACCCA.  By 2000, reports of physical abuse, beatings and sadistic punishments resurfaced.  Roloff  Homes’ administrators were criminally convicted in 2001.  Teen Challenge facilities were also cited for abuse as early as 1998.

Florida Association of Christian Child Care Agencies is just the same as the Texas agency and Teen Challenge center in Florida are members of Florida Association of Christian Child Care Agencies or FACCCA.  Not surprisingly, evidence of extensive abuse has turned up with the Florida facility of almost an identical manner to what was documented in Texas.  West Florida Teen Challenge Boys’ Ranch in Bonifay, Florida is a confirmed abusive teen program.  The contract parents must sign with Teen Challenge states that the Florida Association of Christian Child-Care Agencies’ (FACCCA) "intent" is to "insure the physical and spiritual health, safety, and well being" of the children and therefore that the boy’s ranch must meet FACCCA’s "minimum standards."  Parents have to agree to hold the ranch and its employees harmless from "any and all liability" for injury to the child "even injury resulting in death."  Parents must agree "that God desires that they resolve their dispute with one another within the church and that they be reconciled in their relationships in accordance with the principles stated in I Corinthians 6:1-8, Matthew 5:23-24, and Matthew 18:15-20."  If they cannot resolve their disagreement privately within the church, parents must accept resolution through "biblically based mediation" by rules of the Association of Christian Conciliation Services.  There is no refund of tuition or deposits if the boy leaves the ranch before 15 months even if the ranch has expelled him. A detailed report provided by Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, Inc. Nov. 4th, 2004 newsletter.



 Incidents of Abuse in Teen Challenge

There is no question that eliminating basic health and safety standards made operations easier for a few faith-based programs in Texas, however the lack of minimum standards has threatened the safety of those participating in the program. 

In 1998, a boy filed suit against Dallas Teen Challenge Boys Ranch and Assemblies of God, alleging that a counselor, who was a convicted drug trafficker, sexually molested him and two other boys. The lawsuit also claimed that the ranch’s Executive Director, the church and the ranch’s board knowingly hired people with criminal histories to serve as counselors." (Austin American-Statesman, 5/13/1998) 

 Dallas Teen Challenge Boys Ranch in Winnsboro in was sued because a counselor and convicted drug trafficker sexually molested a young man there and two other boys, one of whom also was 16 or younger.  The law suit alleged that "(The counselor) sexually molested (the plaintiff) on at least six different occasions at the ranch."  The lawsuit further alleged that the church, ranch executive director Paul Ecker and the ranch's board knowingly employed men with criminal histories as counselors despite being informed by state regulators the practice was illegal. According to the lawsuit, most of the residents were there as a condition of probation or deferred adjudication and had psychological or substance abuse problems.  During the day, they performed chores, including caring for livestock, and took part in religious education.  At night, they were "locked down" and monitored by alarm systems, to prevent unauthorized departures.  Many of them had substance abuse problems and were admitted to the program as part of their probation despite the repeated citations from state regulatory authorities, The Assemblies of God entities continued to send men who had criminal records involving narcotics and physical violence to the facility. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal -State News - Lubbock “Church sued in alleged case of sexual abuse” Published: Wednesday, May 13, 1998)

 Registered sex offender, Shondi Fabiano was director of Teen Challenge in Winthrop, Maine and was convicted of Second Degree Child Molestation in Rhode Island.  She is listed on the National Sex Offender Public Registry  She is listed officially as a co-head of Teen Challenge New England by the website of the Northern New England District of the Assemblies of God, and who is officially listed as a lifetime-registered sex offender for second-degree child molestation and sexual assault in the third degree.  An online check of sex offender registries, including the Florida sex-offender registry run by Florida Department of Law Enforcement, also shows Shondi Fabiano also has a history of 2nd degree sexual assault conviction in Kent, RI.   3rd degree sexual assault in Rhode Island is essentially statutory rape of a 14- to 16-year old minor by a person over the age of 18, 2nd degree sexual assault is sexual assault of an incapacitated person or sexual assault using force or coercion, and second degree child molestation is what is generally termed as frank pedophile rape--sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14.   Fabiano would have been nearly 24 years old at the time of the offense.  Fabiano apparently in Rhode Island committed the crimes 10 years ago under her maiden name Shondi Barbato; she was originally charged with 1st degree child abuse (which involves sexual penetration of a child under the age of 14).  It also appears Fabiano (under her maiden name of Barbato) has additional criminal history for she has a conviction for fraud (specifically attempts to obtain money under false pretenses, insurance fraud, and conspiracy) and a dismissed charge of possession of a controlled substanceFabiano is still head of Teen Challenge New England despite not only state laws that prohibit sex offenders and persons convicted of crimes against children from working in children's homes. In fact, technically Fabiano should not legally be able to work at Teen Challenge at all, much less have her residence listed as Teen Challenge in Maine's sex offender registry; Maine has some pretty strict laws regarding contact with minors by registered sex offenders.  But Shondi Fabiano is not the only rapist employed by Teen Challenge in Winthrop, Maine. They also hired Dennis Knox who was convicted of gross sexual assault after raping an unconscious female.  He is listed on the Maine Sex Offender Registry 

Former Sanford, Fla. Teen Challenge director Wayne Gray was forced to resign when his unlicensed telemarketing scam discovered that Teen Challenge only paid workers 33 cents a day for a 40 hour work week.  They pretended to sell timeshare vacations form the “Disney Planning Center Resort”.  Men convicted of financial crimes took the customer’s credit card information over the phone.  The investigation revealed that this scam which had no relationship to Disney. Wayne Gray moved on to Oklahoma Teen Challenge as Executive Director.  (Action 9 news)  WFTV's Action 9 Reporter Todd Urlich Olando Florida

 Proselytizing Report: "Teen Challenge" July 26, 1984,  by Rick Ross to the Religious Advisory Committee to the Arizona Department of Corrections The connections between Teen Challenge and the penal system of the State of Arizona are numerous.  Many full time jail and prison chaplains have dual positions as both volunteers and/or coordinators for Teen Challenge in addition to their staff position funded by the State of Arizona according to the(ADOC) on May 10, 1984.  Chaplains throughout the Arizona Department of Corrections or ADOC are expected to facilitate religious programming in a neutral, non-biased manner.  Teen Challenge openly admitted that its’ primary purpose is the promotion of a specific religious belief system through confrontational evangelism.  Teen Challenge is run by the Assemblies of God.   Any chaplain who engages in facilitating a program for Teen Challenge could easily be seen as assisting in proselytizing. The Teen Challenge program has often been equated to a drug rehabilitation theme however they do not do substance abuse treatment and do very little medical treatment at all due to a lack of medically qualified staff.  However, in the organization's literature the "Teen Challenge Cure" is stated as follows: "The only cure for . . . drug abuse, is Jesus Christ."   Teen Challenge therefore presents an obvious problem in regards to religious bias.  Teen Challenge also poses a serious problem regarding the abrogating of parental authority with minor children within ADOC juvenile facilities. Teen Challenge directly recruits from within the prison and jail systems as well as often being the rehab facilities where judges order children into "volunteer" placement or back into jail.




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