Straight Inc. was a substance abuse rehab program that earned itself a notorious reputation for brutality, abuse, and humiliation of its clients. The program was founded by former U.S. ambassador and co-chair of the Florida Finance Committee for Mitt Romney Mel Sembler, who is now Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s newest campaign fundraising partner.
Sembler is leading the host committee for a fundraising gala tomorrow in Florida to raise money for the Republican Party of Florida and Scott’s reelection campaign.
Throughout the program’s short history, former clients spoke out against the rehab chain for its repeated abuses that included kidnapping, rape, humiliation, and mental and physical assaults. In 2006, Mother Jones reported claims that “children had to flap their arms like chickens or else face shaming as ‘sluts’ and ‘homosexuals.’” The preceding claim is very light compared to other atrocities that allegedly occurred at Straight Inc.
Former client Samantha Monroe was admitted to Straight Inc. in 1980 at 13-years-old. She said that employees starved, raped, and imprisoned her in closets. In a punishment that staff called “humble pants,” she was bound and thrown into a “timeout room” for several days. This forced her to “soil her pants with urine, feces, and menstrual blood.” At 14, she became pregnant as a result of repeated rapings.
Straight Inc. officials always denied the allegations made by critics and former clients. However, several government investigations in the late 80s and early 90s substantiated the claims. The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse released a report in 1989 that indicated abuse at Straight Inc. Dallas center.
“The report said that clients were tied up with with and with an automobile towing strap to prevent escape,” reported the Los Angeles Times. “Clients were physically restrained for minor infractions such as ‘failure to sit up properly.’”
One year later, the California Department of Social Services ordered the closing of Straight Inc.’s Yorba Linda branch after investigations proved “unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse . . . and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping, and toileting.”
Mother Jones reported that Sembler has long donated to Republican candidates and the party, already giving Rick Scott $25,000 by way of Scott’s reelection PAC. Nancy Reagan even once brought Princess Diana in 1985 to a facility in Virginia two years after that facility was found to have kidnapped a college student.
The program has inspired interviews and documentaries where former young clients speak about the abuses exhibited upon them. Straight Inc. has shut down but has since created a new program called the Drug Free American Foundation.
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.