Editor’s note: Today guest blogger Marcus Chatfield continues his series on Straight, Inc. and the research it used to burnish its reputation in the 1980s.
As part of my research I sent a questionnaire to 12 former clients of Straight, some of whom I was in treatment with. My purpose was to collect testimony that would help explain the findings of Friedman et al., and to help raise awareness about the abuses that went on in Straight. I asked participants to reflect on their experiences in Straight and compare their current perspective with their perspective immediately following treatment. Their reports also included descriptions of broken relationships with parents, intensified drug use in the first few years after graduation, and long-term trauma resulting from coerced participation in the program. All of the participants reported being “extremely dissatisfied” now but most reported high levels of satisfaction with their treatment during the time soon after their release. As one former staff member responded, “my answers to these questions are completely different than they would have been immediately after completing aftercare because I was still brainwashed by Straight’s doctrine well beyond my involvement with Straight.”
The only peer-reviewed research specific to clients of Straight was conducted by Straight’s own Medical Director, Richard Schwartz. Looking at the history of the program, it appears that this research began during a financially critical time.