A Letter From The Executive Producer

In 1983, when I was 13 years old, my parents made the decision to place my 15 year old brother Steve into a program called Straight Incorporated in Springfield Virginia. Straight Inc. was a “family treatment center” that was dedicated to preventing teenagers from using drugs and alcohol.

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Steve and I in 1984, while he was in Straight.

In the two and half years Steve was in the program, he lived in our house for no more than a total of two months. He stayed on first phase for the majority of his program, which meant while he wasn't in the Straight Inc. warehouse from 7am to midnight every day, he was sleeping at someone else's home -- we weren't allowed to know where he was being kept. At the time, that's all the information I was given about my brother.

Steve ran away from Straight seven times. He was brought back against his will each and every time. Finally, on his 18th birthday in September of 1985, he withdrew himself from the program. Steve was now homeless; neither parent would allow him to come home. He stayed on couches and in an abandoned apartment for the next 8 months. In June of 1986, he checked into a hotel in Springfield and jumped to his death from his 4th floor room. Confused and heartbroken, I was told it was because of his drug use (the same thing I had been told over and over again for the last 3 years before his death).

The years passed; then in 2001, I decided to Google "Straight Incorporated." Browsing the webpages I read stories of torture and abuse, even finding a couple of different websites that mentioned my brother. It was difficult enough to lose Steve, but to relive it all knowing he went through such horror was devastating. This was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life.

After more research, I came to find out that not only did places like Straight still exist, but many other abusive programs had popped up. It had become an industry.

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Steve and his best friend Corey.

My first thought was to put up a website about my brother's story to enlighten parents so they wouldn't make the same mistake. Then came the silver lining: I started getting emails from survivors of Straight who had known my brother. People who had amazing things to say about his courage, his strength, and his kindness. How he would stand up for people, knowing he would probably get hell for it. This was very bitter sweet, but I was glad to at least get to know my brother through the eyes of those who were being held captive with him. I also found out by talking to my brother's old friends that while my brother liked to party (like plenty of teens), he was in no way an addict (like I was told), and we had been lied to.

Prior to going into Straight I thought we had a happy family; 3 years later my father had gone, and my brother was dead.

Over the next few years, I met hundreds of survivors and have made some life long friends. During that time, myself, and my friends and fellow survivors Todd, and Alex, began talking about making a documentary about Straight. Fast forward several years, and here we are.

It is our hope that this film will not only promote healing among survivors, but will be used as a tool to educate both parents and professionals about the truth of this industry, as well as to encourage people to speak out and help put a stop to the needless abuse and torture children are experiencing every day in this country and around the world.

-Kelly Matthews

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