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Title Straight, Inc.
Founder Mel Sembler, Miller Newton

Alternate Names of the Group: -The Straights -Drug Free America Foundation, Inc. I Was a Victim of Straight, Inc. By Scott Wagner ( I was adopted; I left that home because of abuse there, including several fistfights with my stepfather. I went into an unofficial foster home. When I was 17, in the summer 1983, my stepfather asked me to accompany him to Washingon D.C. to purchase a van, which he wanted so he could tailgate at Eagles games. I agreed, hoping to patch things up. But my mother ended up coming along, which hadn t been part of the plan originally. I began to get suspicious. We got to D.C., where they pulled into a parking lot of a warehouse-type building. I walked in; it immediately became clear they had brought me there to have me committed. These three kids were there to talk to me about drugs, so I agreed to talk to them. We talked for a while, and then I said: Okay, I ve had enough I m going to leave. They told me I couldn t leave. I told them to get out of the way. I pulled a knife out of my boot and missed cutting one of them by about six inches. They put me up to the wall with a chair. Some staff members of the recovery house came in and told me if I didn t sign to go with them, they would press charges. So, I signed myself in. They told me I had to be there only 14 days. I thought: okay, I can do two weeks of this. This was Straight Inc. They had already gone through lawsuits, and the one I went into on the East Coast was not as severe as the house that had been shut down by the first lawsuits; however, it was more severe than the houses that have opened since then. It was Sept. 1983 when I went in. The first thing that happened to me was a strip search, complete with squatting and spreading to show I wasn t carrying any contraband. It was like jail. Any newcomers to the program were not allowed to have shoes, belts, etc. Newcomers were kept in charge by oldcomers kids that had been there a while. Ages ranged from 13 to early mid-20's. The way Straight worked was that the parents signed for large sums up front, all the money for the actual length of time they wished to commit their children to Straight. That way, they could get around insurance regulations that limited stays in recovery houses to, say, 30 days. They d charge them several grand; insurance would cover it, and the kids could stay for years. I stayed 2 1/2 years. They took the 12 steps, and to get around copyright infringements they condensed them down to seven. They had one or two degreed professionals, but everyone else were former clients of Straight, and they were either volunteers, or worked as counselors for only minimum wage. We had to be able to recite litanies of rules, and if we couldn t, we were punished by methods ranging from ridicule to actually being physical abused. Lots of people got sat on and spit at; there were lots of restraints; oldcomers would stand and block the doors so you couldn t get out. They d lead you around by your belt loop all the time; they d literally slide their fingers into your back belt loop, wrap it around, and lead your around by the seat of your pants. While you were there you spent nights locked down; there were bars on the windows or the windows were screwed shut; there were alarms on all the doors. You couldn t escape. I tried once and got tackled about 40 yards outside the lawn. One guy who actually did escape ended up suing Straight Inc.; there was a 60 Minutes episode about him. He was scared even after he sued them because they used to chase down people who did get away. Abuse (punishments) included food consequences where you wouldn t get very much to eat, or only a certain type of gruel. Physical punishment was common. Kid were molested at Straight I knew of a kid who was raped by his oldcomer, and when the counselor found out what happened he came out and told us all we were never to speak of it. Straight Inc. in that area eventually got closed down for not reporting that rape. They got sued by the family of the kid as well. I got felt up by my oldcomer while I was there in that house, and I just did the lay there and pretend it s not happening routine. I just told that story last night, and I still have post traumatic stress over it. It needs to get out, though. We were separated from the girls. I knew one girl who, while they were restraining her, ended up with a concussion from getting her head slammed up against the tile floor. I don t have a good chronology for the stuff that happened, but I do recall what happened. One of the things that was key to their whole thing the reason so many parents got sucked in was that they completely alleviated the parents of any responsibility for the state their children were in when they brought them in. The first thing they told parents is: Your child chose to use drugs instead of come to you for help. Of course, parents just love hearing that. If you ever stood up and said you had been abused, as I did I got the beaten all the time by my old man, and this woman sexually abused me throughout my junior high school years I was ridiculed for being a pervert. I had a friend, too, who was raped by his father, and they forbade him from talking about his dad. He got away from the program and eventually committed suicide by walking off a building. Of course, Nancy Reagan would show up once a season for a photo opportunity, or Princess Di. When Princess Di or the Reagans were there, anyone who could sit up straight with a big smile on their faces and sing the little Straight songs got to sit there in the room while the celebrities walked around. But anyone who was having any difficulty was in the intake room with five guys sitting on top of them. There is still, from what I ve been able to deduce, a Straight Inc. in Georgia: 2221 Austell Road Marrietta, GA 30060 Contact: Carol Walters. This is from a clearinghouse of resources for Straight Inc. victims. Now, I m in group therapy. I occasionally smoke pot, but I m not into heavy drugs. In therapy I ve dealt with the painful things in my life that drove me to use drugs. I had abstained completely for five years, except for Coca-Cola and cigarettes. For a long time after Straight I had nightmares, but they stopped after I started smoking pot again.

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