Saturday, February 18, 2012

VoiceReclaimed at Green Chimneys

The author known as VoiceReclaimed gave permission to have her story published on the webpage Reddit. All rights belong to the original author.

Green Chimneys was the most traumatic experience I ever survived. When I was sent there for one summer, I had no idea of what kind of a place this was.

I was in for a rude awakening that this was not a "regular" camp when the medication cart was brought in after every meal. I later learned that there were kids who saw psychiatrists, but I don't know where the psychiatrists' offices were. I had no idea that meds and psychiatrists were involved. Althought I dodged the med bullet, I did not dodge the beatings one. (If you read GC's online statement, they say they are "authorized to medicate kids." Many survivors I've listened to say that they were given inappropriate medications and that staff experimented with meds).

There was a girl in charge of the room I was in. She was 13 and I was 10. She would beat me and the 8-year-old to a pulp. She once made me lie on the floor and walked on my back. When I yelped in pain, she said, "no phony back spasms." She beat me every single day and once even beat me so hard with a baton that I still have a scar from that beating.

School was another rude awakening. I had no idea that school was part of the routine. I thought it would be a regular camp with summer activities, not school! Even so, school was fraught with problems. The teachers would slap and kick kids; they would call kids retarded. Each grade was divided into A&B bands, e.g. 2A, 2B. I was in 5A. If you were in a B class, you were deemed "slow" and typecast as lacking intelligence.

Classes were held from 9-12 each morning. Other survivors I've talked to said that during the year, you spent more time on that farm than you ever did in class and that when you left GC, you had to play catch up in your subsequent school.

Dr. Samuel B. Ross would hold public beatings; his 2nd in command Richard B. Hill was deemed a racist by other inmates. They would make kids eat cigarettes in front of the entire inmate population. Ross and Hill once dragged a boy out of the Slop Hall because the boy said he wanted more food. Meals were meager portions. Ross even dragged a girl out of the dorm by her hair because, wonder of wonders she did not want to leave on the last day. I can't imagine why anyone would want to stay and his ill treatment of her raised that question all the more.

Ross often threatened to send kids to Rockland State. He once lit after a boy and beat him because the boy was horsing around instead of heading off to class one morning.

I would leave breakfast and head to class early so as to avoid my roomleader. I was so glad I was assigned to a table across the room from her so she couldn't hit and kick me. I would enter and exit the Slop Hall via the laundry room so as to avoid her salutory kick whenever she saw me.

Sexual behavior flourished. Once, two boys exposed themselves to me in class. I arrived early so as to avoid any beatings. The teacher I had, a Mrs. N told me I'd be in trouble just by being present and I didn't know the boys would be there! The Rosses were called in and Sameul B. Ross Jr. threatened those boys within an inch of their lives. My roomleader's brother, then in 7th grade dragged me behind the boys' dorm where 2 of his 8th grade friends were waiting. They told me to take off my clothes, and I refused. One boy said he'd pin my arms behind my back so the others could get started. I had to think of an escape, so I thought if I just kept them talking, I could make a run for it. I did. I made good and sure never to stand at the end of or behind any building after that.

I learned from other survivors that hawks and predators roamed in the boys' dorms as well. Staff and some older students were hawks. In 2001 there was an article about an 8-year-old boy who was raped by 3 older inmates.

The Girls' House dorm where all the girls slept was a nightmare. The year prior to my arrival, a man was notorious for sexual abuse. He left just before my arrival, but his wife remained and she would hit kids at the drop of a hat. The "dorm parents" were a young, punitive couple who were largely disinterested in the kids. The husband was physically and verbally abusive. The wife just verbally. She once dumped a bowl of clay on an older boy's head during an art class for no apparent reason. They both told me I was retarded and nothing I said had any value. I have 2 degrees and can read some Chinese, so I think I disproved their claim.

Another survivor, whose opinions I deeply respect has impressed upon me all the more the value of looking to the positive. This survivor, who had many horrific experiences is a good person who lives by paying it forward.

My reason for sharing my experience was not to point fingers, but to alert people as to the dangers that can take place in these RTCs. I am also reclaiming the voice that I felt was taken from me. People would not listen to me then, even when I was covered in welts and bruises. Green Chimneys was a closed community. All medical care was done by the late Sam B. Ross, Sr. whose "medical care" was to give you a once-over-lightly. Everything was done on the campus and you weren't near a shop or a town, so you were isolated. An electric fence was installed in or about the end of the summer I served there. Green Chimneys is a dangerous place.


1 comment:

  1. I came across this blog while doing research for a possible book. I too am a survivor of that place. I was there from '68 to '76.
    Hope things get better
    Carmine Maggio> Class of '76 - GCS