I found this document among my father’s Straight, Inc. documents.
The first three items are crossed through since none of them are applicable.
According to this document parents paid:
$35.00/month for food.
$2,000.00/Pledge Payment (aka fee for ‘treatment’)
$125 (Random fee? Appointment fee? No written explanation.)
Hmmm. I’ve heard rumor that most if not all of the food was donated to the St. Petersburg, Florida program (which is where these documents are from), but I’ll have to find proof of this. (Note to readers: If you have proof of this, please forward a copy to this site.) However, even if it wasn’t donated, I’m sure we didn’t consume $35 worth of food there per month (especially thirty-five 1984 dollars worth).
The $25.00 doctor’s fee is hilarious. I wonder how they accounted for THIS fee in their books. I never saw a medical doctor in all my days at Straight, Inc.
And the $2000 fee for the program was classified as a pledge. I guess our parents were donors to the non-profit program, Straight, Inc.
Now, considering 99.9% of the items that made up Straight were donated, where did all that money go?
Warehouse Building (in an industrial zone) – (most often donated or paid for by parents’ fundraising efforts).
Signs on the wall.
Plastic chairs (approximately 600-1000 chairs)
Meals (usually donated? Usually only lunch and dinner or just dinner, depending on the program location, other meals were supposed to be provided by parents when possible)
Salaries (kid-graduates did 99.9% of the ‘therapy’ and got paid minimum wage, when they got paid — which wasn’t consistently)
Non-profit business registration and filing: Only a few bucks per year.
That leaves Executive Salaries. But when I spoke to one former executive staff member he scoffed at the proposal that perhaps they got paid well.
When I entered Straight, Inc. on May 29, 1982, there were approximately 350 kids in the group.
Though more than 350 kids had entered the program (within the year and paid the fees) but were no longer there because they escaped or were withdrawn or on the rare occasion terminated.
So let’s use a rough and conservatively estimated number of anywhere from 100 – 350 kids admitted to the program in any one location and in any one given year in the early 1980s. And let’s use the low estimate* that each one was charged $2000.
(*Low estimate: because we know parents paid more than just the initial “entry pledge payment” because there were the additional fees listed above for each kid, plus the collections of additional donations two times per week at each open meeting, plus numerous other fundraisers going on at any given point in time, in which the parents were expected to donate either their time, money and/or other resources. ‘Afterall, who can put a price on a child’s life?‘, which is what the program proclaimed was at stake if the parents didn’t meet all of these expectations.
100-350 kids at (a minimum of) $2000/each = $200,000-$700,000 of tax-free money in any given year in the early 1980’s for the nonprofit corporation that went by the name of Straight, Incorporated and proclaimed to save kids lives with their ‘breakthrough modality of kids helping kids and parents helping parents.‘
Where did all of the money really end up? If you have any answers or ideas, please be sure to leave them in the comments below.
In 2000, I decided to hit the internet to search for information about a place called Straight, Inc. It was a program that my parents got me involved in and in which I was effectively cut off from the real world for about two and a half years. A lot of insane and illegal things took place in this program, and I wanted to know more about how this program was not only allowed to exist but also was endorsed by highly regarded physicians, politicians, and other dignitaries. In fact, Nancy Reagan started her “Just Say No” campaign with the influence of some of Straight, Inc.’s most notorious founders. (I will add supporting evidence for this statement at a future date)
There was virtually nothing online regarding this place. After several days of searching, I came across Scott Wagner’s website* and realized there were other “former students’ thinking along the same lines as I was. This encouraged me to see if I could uncover anything else about those crazy Straight, Inc. years.
(*These links will take you to the internet archive. This is to give you an idea of what the websites were like then, but when I found the websites they looked different as they didn’t contain nearly the amount of information shown on the archive pages.)
Eventually, I found Anonymity Anonymous*, created by Ginger Warbis. I ended up having many long conversations with both Ginger (now Ginger McNulty) and Wesley Fager.
The three of us compared notes about our personal experiences within the Straight, Inc. program and we shared research we had been doing independently up to that point.
During my research, I came across an article that truly surprised me. Moral Integrity and Presidential Appointees: The Straight Skinny, by Arnold S. Trebach. This article mentioned Straight, Inc. by name, a person who had been in Straight, Inc. with me, and one of the founders of Straight, Inc.
The article I found on a website called The Trebach Report, described Trebach’s experience at a major international conference in Melbourne, Australia in 1989. He tells of his shock when he heard the American ambassador to Australia brag that he and his wife had formed a drug treatment organization called Straight in Florida. In this article, he also tells of his conversation with a top Dutch drug policy official who said, “Oh yes, I know about the program, Hitler Jungen!”
After reading this article, I immediately called Wes. I wanted to do more to bring the Straight, Inc. phenomenon to light. Eventually, Wes and I met with Arnold Trebach, and the first conference on this topic was born.
Here are the first couple of introductory paragraphs in the conference agenda folder:
The major purpose of this conference is to re-examine the destructive role that certain highly approved treatment programs have had on the children they were supposed to help. Thus we are turning conventional logic on its head and purposely coining a new phrase, drug treatment abuse. There are good reasons for doing so.
In this conference, we will review the record of the harmful impact that these treatment programs have had on their young inmates. Discuss methods to close these destructive institutions, examine the reasons why these programs have received such high-level support, and suggest better, more effective methods for helping children with problems of all kinds. In addition, we will seek to provide guidance to those children already harmed by these programs so that they may obtain redress or compensation in a court of justice either through civil lawsuits, filing criminal complaints or both.
The idea for this conference originated with Kathy Martin,** one of the survivors of Straight, Inc., a controversial youth treatment program that has garnered endorsements of presidents and top addiction physicians along with widespread condemnation by former clients, government officials, and adverse court judgments.
That original idea has been broadened in scope and participants. The Trebach Institute has agreed to take a leading role in developing the conference as well as in creating a project that will carry this effort into the future beyond the conference. Survivors of numerous programs similar to Straight, Inc. have come forward asking to be involved in this multi-faceted effort. While some of these programs bear remarkable similarities to Straight. Inc., others have their own brand of destructive treatment. Moreover, all of them seem to have zealous supporters as well as equally zealous critics. We welcome them all to this open conference. (The full write-up can be found here.)
** Now known as Kathy Moya
Jim Turney of Liberty Tapes attended and videotaped the entire conference. I bought the entire set of tapes and have obtained Jim Turney’s permission to publish clips from that conference. Here are a few introductory clips from the 2001 Conference in Bethesda, Maryland. More clips will be available at a future date when I obtain more funds to digitize the rest of the VHS tapes. ***(Feel free to donate through Paypal – the link is in the sidebar. Thanks!)***
Kathy Moya, 2001 Conference
Wes Fager, 2001 Conference
Dr. Arnold Trebach, 2001 Conference
Please remember to leave your comments below!
In each of these books, Trebach devotes entire sections to the Straight, Inc. program.
According to the Articles of Incorporation, Straight, Inc. was formed as a corporation not for profit, for charitable and philanthropic purposes on April 22, 1976. Its specific purposes according to its Articles of Incorporation were to develop and administer programs for victims of drug abuse, dealing with rehabilitation, welfare, and health, in order to assist them in adjusting themselves to their environment; to train them in vocations and avocations; to aid them in all their activities; and to be of assistance in solving their particular problems, and to interest and unite men and women in social work for the welfare of boys and girls and young men and young women to the end that crime, poverty, and misery may be lessened, that a nobler manhood and womanhood may be developed, and that a more perfect love of home, family and country may be fostered, and to cooperate with all federal, state and local government agencies to secure these ends, utilizing all powers this corporation may exercise as granted it by Chapter 617, Florida Statutes.
The subscribers to these Articles of Incorporation are listed as:
Melvin F. Sembler
H. Goldstein, Ph.D.
The officers of the corporation are listed as:
PRESIDENT: Melvin F. Sembler
SECRETARY: Raymond Bourgholtzer (resigned in September, 1976)
TREASURER: Raymond Bourgholtzer
The Board of Directors are listed as:
H. Goldstein, Ph.D.
Leon Sellers, D.V.M.
R. C. Garby, M.D.
Robert E. Chapin (Resigned August 8, 1977)
Ruth E. Chapin (Resigned)
Mel F. Sembler
Betty S. Sembler
John E. White
Thomas E. Wykoff
Arthur W. Bauknight (Resigned September 22, 1976)
Lila L. Bauknight (Resigned July 20, 1977)
Under Article X. Miscellaneous in Straight, Inc.’s Articles of Incorporation, the following sections are included:
Section 1: No part of the net earnings of the corporation shall inure to the benefit of any individual or member.
Section 4: This Corporation is not organized for a pecuniary profit, it shall not have any power to issue certificates of stock or declare dividends, and no part of its net earnings shall inure to the benefit of any member, director, or individual. The balance, if any, of all money received by the corporation from its operators after the payment in full of all debts and obligations of the corporation, of whatever kind or nature, shall be used and distributed exclusively for charitable, scientific, and educational purposes in the fields of drug abuse education, prevention, control and education awareness.
It was signed by the three subscribers mentioned above, and Straight, Inc., named Dr. Leon H. Sellers, Jr. as its resident agent.
July 27, 1976 – The Evening Independent Ran a News Article about Straight, Inc.
Straight Inc. New Drug Program Set for Sept. 1.
By Staff Writer, Joe Childs
A new drug treatment program which will be almost totally dependent on support it gets from the community will begin Sept 1 to combat what has been called a fast-growing local teenage drug problem.
Aimed at youths 12 to 18 years old, the program called Straight, Inc. will strive to help drug abusers and drug offenders, not addicts or those with a physical dependence on narcotics. 1
The project’s backers, including a number of persons prominent in public and private life here, the week capped seven months of quiet organizing and fund-raising2 with the announcement that Straight, Inc. indeed will become a reality and by setting Sept. 1 as a target date for opening the facility.
The program now has a building, enough money to start and a director to steer its courses, supporters said.
Straight Inc. will be located at 700 43rd St. S. a two-story, former office building donated3 to the project. The facility is big enough to serve 200-300 clients, the eventual program goal.
Directing Straight, Inc. will be James E. Hartz, a 27-year-old clinical psychologist4 lured to St. Petersburg from Augusta, GA, where he set up a training center for mentally disabled persons.
Straight, Inc. will attempt to fill what is regarded as a void in the community’s drug treatment system. Judges and law enforcement officials supporting Straight from its inception have argued this community lacks a program for non-addicts.5 Chief Circuit Judge David Patterson, a major program backer, has said young drug offenders who are not hard-core users can only be referred to overloaded probation officers because no treatment facilities exits.
According to Hartz, Straight Inc. will provide a therapeutic environment where teenagers can resolve, in group sessions and individually, drug problems and other social trauma that may have led to experiences with drugs.6
Straight Inc. will accept youngsters who have had minor drug troubles and are stirring worry among parents, Hartz said. The program will also treat youths who have known extended drug use. In addition, Straight Inc. hopes to take court-referred drug offenders.7
The aim of the program is to work with teenagers by day at the facility. Participants will live in foster homes and eventually return to their own homes while still receiving treatment.
Parents will be required to take an active part in their child’s treatment. Straight Inc. plans to organize group sessions for parents, who will discuss their own family units. Siblings of program participants also will be involved, said Hartz.
Straight, Inc.’s ultimate treatment goal, Hartz said, is to turn a youngster away from drugs and encourage the youth to be a contributing member of society. The program’s staff will be six young adults who have experienced drugs and been helped by other treatment program. Like Hartz, they will be salaried employees.8
Funding of Straight, Inc. organizers hope, will continue to be supported by public and private donations. Revenue also will be generated by fee charge clients.
Dr. Leon Sellers, a veterinarian and founding father of the program estimated Straight Inc. will need at least $130,000 in its first year. He said the program would like to stay clear of government financing to avoid dependence, but may eventually be forced to seek public funds.9
The program’s eventual aim is to become self-supporting, reliant on client fees and a regular donation program. Fees for participants have not been determined yet, but likely will be in the neighborhood of $300 to $500, said Sellers. Families not able to pay that much will be allowed to pay what they can, he noted.10
My observations about this news article. Please tell what you think in the comments below. Do you agree? Or Disagree? Or have a different perspective, all together?
1, 5, 7 – In comments 1 & 5 they repeatedly speak of establishing a program for youth who are not addicts and who do not have a physical dependence on narcotics because the community lacks a program for non-addicts and young drug offenders who are not hard core.
Straight Inc. will accept youngsters who have had minor drug troubles and are stirring worry among parents, Hartz said. ß This statement comes the closest to being accurate (although they forgot to add or have not had any drug troubles and are stirring worry among parents) though you will never find a statement like this again in the history of the program because that would undermine the program’s biggest threat of the child ending up ‘Dead, Insane or in Jail,’ if they do not complete the program.
Then in that same paragraph it says ‘the program will also treat youths who have known extended drug use. In addition, Straight Inc. hopes to take court-referred drug offenders.’
This seems like a contradiction to the emphasis on non-addicts and minor drug troubles.
2 – Why was the organizing and fund-raising done quietly? If it is a program that is supposed to support the community and hopes to be supported by the community, and is a noble non-profit organization to help children in need, what is the reason for getting set up quietly? Is there something to hide?
3 & 9 – If they already have had a building that has been donated to them, their operating equipment is essentially, some old wooden benches or plastic chairs, an American flag and some poster board with the program steps (like AA steps) on them for the walls, and one office for the staff, the salaries for one ‘professional staff member’ and the rest are ‘para-professional staff members’ or high school or young adult aged kids who have been involved in previous programs, and utilities… then why on earth would they need $130,000 ‘1976-dollars’ to operate during the first year? Not to mention the parents fees, and all of their fundraising efforts and all of the donated help to get the donated building ready. They had so much donated to them, I can’t imagine where that figure came from. If you know, please let me know in the comments below.
4 – Well, Jim Hartz wasn’t exactly a clinical psychologist. He had a master’s degree in psychology. You need a Ph.D. in clinical psychology to call yourself a clinical psychologist. Did the reporter get this wrong? This is possible. Or did someone speaking to the reporter embellish just a little? This seems entirely possible as well. We will never know for sure. 1/29/2016: Update: A former client has stated that when Jim Hartz was first hired, he only had his bachelor’s degree. He then worked on earning his master’s degree during the first few years of his being director at Straight, Inc. – In the 1978 investigative report of Straight, Inc. a former parent and intake mother stated to the investigators that she heard Mel Sembler, the president of Straight, Inc., tell her husband that Jim Hartz was hired for his degree and that Helen Petermann would operate the program. (By 1978 Jim Hartz was reported to have his master’s degree in psychology as per the investigation.)
6 – According to Hartz, Straight Inc. will provide a therapeutic environment where teenagers can resolve, in group sessions and individually, drug problems and other social trauma that may have led to experiences with drugs.I believe something like this may have been helpful to adolescents and young adults who were enrolled in this program. It seems that Hartz was thinking right when he first joined Straight, Inc., but then as with many, his education and training got lost when he decided to embrace this unproven method of ‘helping kids.’
8 – The program’s staff will be six young adults who have experienced drugs and been helped by other treatment program. Like Hartz, they will be salaried employees.
Right from the beginning people were told that the staff members would be experienced drug abusers who had been helped by other programs. The general public bought the tagline “kids helping kids,” and “peer pressure got them on to drugs, peer pressure is going to get them off of drugs.” This is what happened, but in a “Lord of The Flies” kind of way, not under the supervision of highly qualified professional staff members as the parents were told.
10 – Families not able to pay that much will be allowed to pay what they can, he noted.
I’ve heard and read mixed reviews on this policy. Evidently, sometimes it was in effect, and sometimes it wasn’t. But I don’t know what criteria determined when it was and wasn’t offered.