My name is Danny Prior and I am a graduate of Carolina Springs Academy. My story starts off on November 3, 2000 at 7:30 in the morning when my mom woke me up and I remember seeing her crying and she told me that I was going to be going with these two guys to a boarding school in South Carolina. My first reaction was to roll back over since I was really tired so I didn't pay attention to my mom. I rolled back over and the next thing I know I was being drug out of my bed by these 2 guys (Mr. Kenny and Mr. Billy) I'd never seen before. I heard my mom running across the house crying. I was thrown on the ground and handcuffed. They picked me up and helped me put shorts on which they took the belt out of so I couldn't run. They took the shoelaces out of my shoes because my mom told them I was fast. They walked me out of my house into a car waiting in the garage, where from there we drove to the airport, flew to Atlanta and then drove a few hours up to South Carolina.
I didn't know exactly where I was going because they didn't talk much to me. I was really shocked at what was happening because if it weren't for my mom waking me up I would of thought I was being kidnapped. I remember Mr. Kenny telling me that I was going to a Specialty Boarding School and I asked him how long I was going to be there. He told me he did not know. I remember being really upset about not being able to say goodbye to my girlfriend or my brother of any of my friends. Mr. Kenny assured me that I could call them as soon as I got there and tell them where I was. He also told me they had some really pretty girls up there.
After a short plane ride and a long ride in an old broken down truck bouncing around with handcuffs on, we finally got there. From what I was told on the way over it didn't seem like it was going to be to bad, that's why I wondered why they needed handcuffs but as soon as I got out of the truck and they got me in a little shed with 3 staff members I realized that something was wrong about this. I was told to take my clothes off and they gave me green sweat pants and a green shirt, both with the CSA logo. I asked Mr. Kenny where the phone was so I could call my girlfriend, one of the other staff members in there started laughing hysterically. I wondered why but soon realized that there were no phones there and that I was at a place I was going to hate but I still had little idea of where I really was.
The first day I was there I was assigned a buddy to teach me all of the rules and he started telling me the truth about the place. I thought I was at a school…not some kind of hellish boot camp. He started going over the rules with me and to me they were ridiculous. You couldn't talk without permission from a staff member, you had to ask to use the bathroom, there was no TV, no phones, I remember I got there when the kids were in school time and they brought me in and sat me down. Everyone was so quiet so I started talking and my buddy told me I couldn't talk. I thought he was crazy, I said, "What do you mean I can't talk? I can talk whenever the hell I want to talk." He just kind of shrugged his shoulders and said," you'll find out."
I got up and went to find the nearest staff and the staff saw me and yelled, "What the hell are you doing?" I said I want to talk to Mr. Dan (who was my family rep, I was told he talked to my parents). I was told I couldn't and I started getting upset because I wanted to know what the hell was going on…. where was I? Why can't I call my girlfriend? Why can't I talk? I had so many questions I started to get really frustrated. One of the staff members grabbed me and pulled me outside and said, "I know you're new but you're in OUR world now, not yours. Your mom and dad couldn't handle you so we will and we can. You follow our rules and do as we say…you got it?" I said no I don't get it, you guys cant keep me here and I started to walk away from the school and by this time it attracted the attention of 4 other staff members. They grabbed me and slammedme against the wall and told me that this was the last freebee they were giving me. They instructed me to shut the hell up and go sit down with the rest of the kids. I did and right there I gave in to them with no choice, I remember thinking this can't be real. That was the start to my hell like experience at Carolina Springs Academy.
I'm a smart kid, I learn real quickly. In order to get out of there you must move up the levels and graduate the program. Sounds easy, right? It's not. The staff there is made up of a bunch of illiterate morons that I really bet half of them could not recite the alphabet for you if you asked them to. The only way they know how to deal with your problems is with physical force and that's how they get you to comply with the rules. It makes me sick when I go on WWASP's website and read about how they run their programs and how the kids seem to enjoy their stays at the programs. It is unbelievable to me that they are even allowed to promote themselves in that way. The programs are run more like prison camps. The school there is a joke. The teachers don't teach. They sit at a desk where you have to sign up to even talk to them. You'll be lucky to get to talk to them once a week for 10 minutes.
I know a lot of the parents don't visit these places before they send their kids off. If you are a parent and thinking about sending your kid off and you don't believe me…go see for yourself the shape of the facility. Ask them to talk with the teachers, ask them if you can follow the group around for a couple hours and see how each day is lived. If I learned anything out of this whole program it is I learned to lie. I talked to countless parents that came there to look at the place when I was an upper level. I had to sit there and lie to them, tell them that it's a good experience and I have learned so much because right there next to them is a staff member and my family rep watching every word I say to make sure I say the right things.
On top of just the total isolation from the whole outside world, the conditions there in which the program is run is just terrible. There were countless times I've seen kids "passively" restrained for the most smallest of rules broken including talking at meal time or not getting up in the 10 seconds you have to get up out of your bed into a straight line in height order and heel to toe with the person in front of you. I put passively in quotations because to them passively consists of usually at least 3 staff members being involved in one or more holding the kid still while the other twisttheir arm behind their back up until it touches their ear. They do this in OP, which stands for Observation Placement, which is where the staff members dish out most of the physical punishment. I've seen every single staff member there involved in restraining a kid for reasons that are ridiculous…as a matter of fact I'm going to stop using the word restraining and use the word abusing because that's exactly what it is, abuse in my opinion.
The whole time I was there I never saw a kid go at a staff member or pose any kind of physical threat to a staff member which is the only times restraints like the one I talked about with the arm to the ear are supposed to be used. Some staff even gets a kick out of it. One staff member Mr. Mark used to think it was funny to just come up and grab you by your neck and squeeze the hell out of it, and for why? I think because it made him feel like a bigger man picking on kids half his size but I guess I'll never know. Sometimes you would hear screaming, and I mean horrific screaming coming from the OP building and it broke your heart when your friend was in there getting abused and you could do nothing about it. I remember my friend who's name I don't want to use without his permission came back from OP with bruises all over his arm, chest and back from getting punched and kicked from one of the staff there.
Not only the restraints but also the food was terrible and in very short supply. I remember for a couple months after I got out I couldn't even eat a full meal because my stomach had gotten so used to eating such small amounts of food. I remember a kid ate a piece of cardboard in protest of the food we were being served. At meal times, you are not even allowed to look around…you look down at your food with your feet flat on the floor facing straight ahead and your elbows off the table, there was no talking, no non-verbal communication or getting up for any reason. This is how it was most of the day. Talking was not permitted for I would say about 90% of the day. Through all the struggles I faced I knew I had to keep following the rules and move up the levels to get out but it was hard with so many ridiculous rules and even more ridiculous punishments. My family rep criticized every letter I wrote home. If it was a good letter my family rep told my parents I was manipulating them, if it was a bad letter it was proof I needed to be there, you couldn't win with these guys.
I spent a total of 11 months and 19 days at Carolina Springs Academy and graduated which is very quick to graduate. Ever since I have been out 3 and half years ago I have been trying to get my voice out there about these WWASP programs and I will talk anyone's ear off who will listen to me. Please if you have any questions, I mean any question at all or if you are just thinking about sending your kid to one of these programs or if you do have a kid there email me…I would love to talk to you. I'm not trying to seem innocent like I was a great kid and all this…I did have problems, I still do…everybody does and I did need some changes in my life but believe me…please believe me when I tell you that these programs are not what they advertise…. the stuff that goes on behind those closed doors is kept very secret and it's just starting to come out now. They claim to help families heal but you know what…. I'm a graduate or what they call; "fully-baked" and I have no relationship with my parents anymore. I don't even talk to them because of what I went through. They can't understand it and don't want to. So to think they claim to heal families but it destroyed mine, if you want to send your kid to a place where they will be mistreated and just warehoused for as long as you want to pay, then WWASP is your program. If you truly want to help your troubled teen…really look into some other programs that are a more credible….and I thank you for your time reading my story and I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Danny Prior, FL