pandora1305 Posted July 15 Report Share Posted July 15 http://observer.guardian.co.uk/magazine/story/0,11913,987172,00.html?The last resort When you have a teenager on the rampage, who are you going to turn to? InAmerica, parents send their troubled offspring to Jamaica's TranquilityBay - a 'behaviour-modification centre' which charges $40,000 a year to'cure' them. Decca Aitkenhead, the first journalist to gain access to thecentre in five years, wonders if there isn't too high a price to paySunday June 29, 2003The ObserverWere you to glance up from the deserted beach below, you might mistakeTranquility Bay for a rather exclusive hotel. The statuesque whiteproperty stands all alone on a sandy curve of southern Jamaica, featheredby palm trees, gazing out across the Caribbean Sea. You would have tolook closer to see the guards at the wall. Inside, 250 foreignchildren are locked up. Almost all are American, but though keptprisoner, they were not sent here by a court of law. Their parents paidto have them kidnapped and flown here against their will, to beincarcerated for up to three years, sometimes even longer. They will notbe released until they are judged to be respectful, polite and obedientenough to rejoin their families.Parents sign a legal contract with Tranquility Bay granting 49 per centcustody rights. It permits the Jamaican staff, whose qualifications arenot required to exceed a high-school education, to use whatever physicalforce they feel necessary to control their child. The contract alsowaives Tranquility's liability for harm that should befall a child in itscare. The cost of sending a child here ranges from $25,000 to $40,000 ayear.Opened in 1997, Tranquility Bay is not a boot camp or a boarding schoolbut a 'behaviour modification centre' for 11- to 18-year-olds. AnAmerican Time magazine journalist visited in 1998, and since then nomedia have been allowed inside. With all access denied, there has beenlittle coverage beyond sketchy reports based on hearsay - even the localcommunity knows almost nothing of what goes on. My discovery ofTranquility Bay came only by accident in 2000, while living nearby, andall my approaches since then were, like every other media request, firmlyrejected.The owner is an American called Jay Kay. He doesn't trust the media,because 'they go for sensationalist stuff. Nothing has really presentedthings in a way that is factual.' On the other hand, he believes anyonewho saw inside Tranquility would support and admire it, and blamescriticism on ignorance. So Kay has been in a dilemma. His business isexpanding, and he is turning his attention to the UK, for he believesthere is a large untapped market of British parents who would ship theirchildren straight off to Jamaica if only they knew about Tranquility. TheBritish government, too, he hopes, might send him children in its care.'If social services was interested, at $2,400 a month I bet they can'toffer our services for that.'This spring he decided to grant me and a photographer unprecedented,exclusive access. If he didn't like the result, 'Hell will freeze overbefore anyone getsin here again.'The first impression once inside Tranquility Bay's perimeter walls is ofdisconcerting quiet. Students are moved around the property in silence byguards in single file, 3ft apart - a complicated operation, because girlsand boys must be kept segregated at all times, forbidden to look at oneanother.Tranquility has a language of its own. The vocabulary is recognisable,but its use has been delicately customised, so that boys are 'males',girls 'females', and they are all divided into single-sex 'families' ofabout 20. The families have names such as Dignity, Triumph and Wisdom,and are led by a staff member known as the 'family mother' or 'father',addressed by the children as Mum or Dad. The 200 staff are all Jamaican.Along with multiple guards known as 'chaperones', the family mothers andfathers control and scrutinise their children 24 hours a day. The onlymoment a student is alone is in a toilet cubicle; but a chaperone isstanding right outside the door, and knows what he or she went in to do,because when students raise their hand for permission to go, they musthold up one finger for 'a number one', and two for 'a number two'.Corporal punishment is not practised, but staff administer 'restraint'.Officially it is deployed as the name suggests, to subdue a student whois out of control. However, former students say it is issued more oftenas a punishment. One explains: 'It's a completely degrading, painfulexperience. You could get it for raising your voice or pointing yourfinger. You know you're going to get it when three Jamaicans walk in andsay, "Take off your watch." They pin you down in a five-point formationand that's when they start twisting and pulling your limbs, grinding yourankles.'Before sending their teen to Tranquility, parents are advised that itmight be prudent to keep their plan a secret, and employ an approvedescort service to break the news. The first most teenagers hear ofTranquility is therefore when they are woken from their beds at home at4am by guards, who place them in a van, handcuffed if necessary, drivethem to an airport and fly them to Jamaica. The child will not be allowedto speak to his or her parents for up to six months, or see them for upto a year.Let us say you are a new female assigned to Challenger family. You sleepwith your family in one bare room, on beds which are pieces of wood onhinges hung on the walls. The day begins with a chaperone shouting at youto get up. You put on your uniform and flip-flops (harder to run away in)in silence and fold your bed against the wall. The room is now completelybare. After performing chores, the family is ordered to line up, for yourfamily mother to do a head count.You are walked to a classroom to watch an 'EG' - a 30-minute videointended to promote 'emotional growth' - on a theme such as why youshouldn't smoke. Then the family is lined up, counted and walked to thecanteen to eat a plate of boiled cabbage and fish in silence whilelistening to an 'inspirational tape' broadcast loudly through the room,urging you to, for example, eat healthily.'If 70-80 per cent of the food you eat is not water rich, what you aredoing is clogging your body. Eat 80 per cent water-rich food. Try it forthe next 10 days. Watch what happens to your body. It will blow yourmind.' Students have no choice in what they eat - there is a seven-dayplan of basic Jamaican meals which never changes, and eating less than 50percent of any dish is forbidden.Morning routines vary between families. Some shower (three minutes, coldwater), others wash clothes (outside, in buckets, cold water), orexercise (walk round the yard). At 9.30am, each family is moved into aclassroom for two hours. You continue the US high-school curriculum whereyou left off at home, but there is no teaching.Watched by chaperones, you read prescribed course books, take notes, thensit a test after each chapter. Two or three Jamaican teachers sit at theback of the room in case you get stuck, and they may be able to help. Butto mark the tests, they have to use an answer key sent down from theStates.After lunch and another inspirational tape come three further hours ofschool, a second EG, plus an educational video about a historical figureof note. There is a sports period, a family meeting, a final meal withtape, followed by a period called Reflections, when you must write downwhat you have memorised from the tapes and EGs. You may also write hometo your parents, and though staff can read your mail, you may write whatyou like. But Tranquility's handbook for parents warns them not tobelieve anything that sounds like a 'manipulation', the programme's wordfor a complaint.There is no free time, and you are never alone. At 10pm everyone is inbed for Shut Down; the lights go off, and Tranquility is silent, save forwaves crashing on to the beach below. Chaperones watch you through thenight. And the next day is exactly the same. As is the next, and thenext.'Yep, identical,' says Kay. 'Exactly identical. Now you see,' he adds,with a grim nod of satisfaction, 'why kids are not happy here.'Tranquility Bay is one of 11 facilities affiliated to an organisation inUtah called the World Wide Association of Speciality Programs. Thefacilities are located in the States and Caribbean region, and althoughindependently owned, all run the same programme, devised by Wwasp.Jay Kay is 33 years old, and the son of Wwasp's chief director. He openedthe facility at the age of 27, after four years as administrator of aWwasp-run juvenile psychiatric hospital in Utah. Previously he had been anight guard there, and before that a petrol-pump attendant, havingdropped out of college. He has no qualifications in child development,but considers this unimportant.'Experience in this job is better than any degree. Am I an educationalexpert? No. But I know how to hire people to get the job done.' There ismore than a touch of the Jerry Springer guest about his looks - heavy,shaven-headed, colourless, and a similarly deadening certainty of mind.'I've got the best job in the world,' he claims, but he carries himselflike a man who has learnt to expect the worst, and is seldomdisappointed.Tranquility is basically a private detention camp. But it differs in oneimportant respect. When courts jail a juvenile, he has a fixed sentenceand may think what he likes while serving it, whereas no child arrives atTranquility with a release date. Students are judged ready to leave onlywhen they have demonstrated a sincere belief that they deserved to besent here, and that the programme has, in fact, saved their life. Theymust renounce their old self, espouse the programme's belief system,display gratitude for their salvation, and police fellow students whoresist.A finely engineered reward-and-punishment system has been designed toeffect this change. In order to graduate, students must advance fromlevel 1 to 6, which they do by earning points. Every aspect of theirconduct is graded daily and as their score accumulates, they climbthrough the levels and acquire privileges. On level 1, students areforbidden to speak, stand up, sit down or move without permission. Whenthey have earnt enough points to reach level 2, they may speak withoutpermission; on level 3, they are granted a (staff-monitored) phone callhome. Levels 4, 5 and 6 enjoy significantly higher status. In addition toenjoying privileges, such as (strictly limited and approved) clothing,jewellery, music and snacks, they are employed for three days a week as amember of staff, and must discipline other students by issuing'consequences'.Every time a member of staff or upper-level student feels a student hasbroken a rule, they 'consequence' them by deducting points. Rule-breakingis classified into categories of offence. A 'Cat 1' offence, ie rollingyour eyes, is consequenced by a modest loss of points. A 'Cat 3' offence,eg swearing, costs a significant number, and may drop the student's scorebeneath their current level's threshold, thus demoting them and removingprivileges.'You know,' offers Kay, 'if people want to talk about the length of theprogramme, it's up to the child. If a parent wonders why their kid ishere so long, well gee, we are doing our part, maybe you need to ask yourlittle Joey why he is not moving forward. Everyone knows how to earn thepoints.'The strategy of coercing children to rewire themselves is the concept Kayis most proud of, for he believes it places troubled teenagers'redemption in their own hands. The choice is theirs.'For years, we just believed if you make the kids do what you want themto do, then they will make the change. But what we figured out was, whynot get them to come to the conclusion that they need to make the changethemselves? That's what makes this programme special. It's up to them.'Students who fail to grasp this formula are forcefully encouraged to getthe message. One girl currently has to wear a sign around her neck at alltimes, which reads: 'I've been in this programme for three years, and Iam still pulling crap.'When most children first arrive they find it difficult to believe thatthey have no alternative but to submit. In shock, frightened and angry,many simply refuse to obey. This is when they discover the alternative.Guards take them (if necessary by force) to a small bare room and makethem (again by force if necessary) lie flat on their face, arms by theirsides, on the tiled floor. Watched by a guard, they must remain lyingface down, forbidden to speak or move a muscle except for 10 minutesevery hour, when they may sit up and stretch before resuming theposition. Modest meals are brought to them, and at night they sleep onthe floor of the corridor outside under electric light and the gaze of aguard. At dawn they resume the position.This is known officially as being 'in OP' - Observation Placement - andmore casually as 'lying on your face'. Any level student can be sent toOP, and it automatically demotes them to level 1 and zero points. Every24 hours, students in OP are reviewed by staff, and only sincere andunconditional contrition will earn their release. If they areunrepentant? 'Well, they get another 24 hours.' One boy told me he'dspent six months in OP.I didn't think this could be true, but it transpired this was not evenexceptional. 'Oh no,' says Kay. 'The record is actually held by afemale.' On and off, she spent 18 months lying on her face.'The purpose of observation,' Kay offers, 'is to give the kids a chanceto think. Hopefully, it's giving the kids a chance to reflect on thechoices they've made.' And indeed it is often in OP that a studentdecides to stop fighting. In this respect, OP works. In fact, the successrate of OP can be understood as a perfect distillation of TranquilityBay's ideology. If your son is willfully disrespectful, the most lovinggift a parent can give him is incarceration in an environment sointolerable that he will do anything to get out - where 'anything' meanssurrendering his mind to authority.'I say to the parents,' says Kay, leaning back in his office seat. 'Thebottom line is, what's the end result you want? Getting there may beugly, but at least with us you're going to get there.' Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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