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The Troubled Teen Industry:
Understanding  their criminal, institutionalized abuse


The Troubled Teen Industry (TTI) is a loosely-affiliated, multi-billion dollar system of “schools,” “camps,” centers and group homes that claim to rehabilitate teens in need of support through “tough love” remedies like attack therapy (insults and emotional degradation), physical punishment, hard labor, and deprivation. These programs started in the 1950s and were popularized in the 1980s. They have consistently been exposed as abusive. They have been shut down by bad publicity, injuries and deaths; charged with heinous crimes; and successfully sued for millions of dollars. Their founders and staff have been jailed. And yet, every time the industry is exposed, it changes its terminology, splinters into new programs, and comes back stronger–using the so-called “success” of prior programs deemed abusive to “prove” that their methods are effective and within the scientific mainstream.

This is not a case of bad apples; this is an industry whose methods and ideas are inherently criminal. These Human Rights violations are standard methods sold as therapy in the TTI:


  • Prolonged deprivation of food, sleep, mobility, bathroom access, and social contact

  • Prolonged use of physical, chemical, and mechanical restraints

  • Prolonged sessions of insults, threats and other psychologically destructive manipulations designed to “break down” personality and sense of self

  • Forced labor, extreme discipline, and exposure to extreme environments

  • Sexual shaming and obscene sexual language from adults to teens

  • Denial of access to medical facilities and real help, even when a student’s life is in danger

An estimated 120,000+ teens are living in TTI programs at any given time. About 50,000 are placed by their parents, often on the advice of professionals like school counselors or therapists, and sometimes via strategies like threatening interventions, drugging, and “black bagging,” where teens are kidnapped with bags over their heads. The other 70,000+ teens are placed into the TTI  by local, state, and federal governments. 


The TTI industry receives an estimated $23 billion every year in public funds. Your government is using your money to pay for the abuse of children.


There have been over 350 deaths of teens within programs and countless suicides later in life by those who were harmed by their “treatment.”


The per-victim lifetime economic burden to society for child maltreatment was estimated in 2015 to be over $830,000 per individual. This is money society directly pays to care for people whose childhood abuse, such as what happens at TTI programs, leads to unemployment, homelessness, violent or antisocial episodes, mental illness and prison.

The United States is the only country where the Troubled Teen Industry exists. The few facilities outside the United States, such as in Jamaica and Mexico, cater almost exclusively to American parents. No other countries systematically abuse their children this way.

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