I will never forget that night.
As far as I knew, I was going to wake up in a few hours and walk to the school bus stop. I have always been a light sleeper, the kind to wake up at the slightest noise. So when I randomly awoke that night around 3:25am, I sat staring at my ceiling and wondering why.
When the door exploded and flew into my bedroom, all I could think of was that I was dreaming. There was no other explanation for it. When the two burly men burst into the room behind the door I can vividly remember looking over at the window and contemplating the jump. It was a two story drop, but certainly that was preferable to murder or kidnapping.
You see, I had no clue or indication that my parents had gone behind my back to make a deal with a county judge. I had no concept that this judge had offered them an “out” so that I could legally avoid my upcoming court date. Many years later, the country would learn of the Kids for Cash scandal, a mind-reeling abomination of justice where local judges were receiving large amounts of cash as an incentive to send juveniles into for-profit detention centers, for the most trivial of charges.
The Elan School received $50-60k per child and while they haven’t been officially named (or caught) in this scandal, it doesn’t take much imagination to see a judge receiving an easy $10k for helping them fill their “program” with unwilling participants. That is still a whole lot of profit for Elan, especially considering us teens lived in absolute squalor and ran the program ourselves in the real life version of the Stanford Prison Experiment meets Lord of the Flies.
My parents had the fear of god put into them by that judge, so they unwittingly agreed to let Elan “come and get me” in an unfortunately common way: The Legal Industry for Kidnapping Teens. But ask yourself, what would you think if tonight two guys broke down your bedroom door at 3am? Because that is exactly what was going through my head when it happened.
I figured that thieves or murderers had broken into the house. What other explanation could there be? And I experienced those feelings in a very real way as it was happening. So I went into fight or flight mode. In the seconds I contemplated flight (jumping out the window) the two large men were already on me. So I fought, I fought as if I was literally going to be taken and tied to a chair and tortured. And they were not prepared for that.
But a 16 year old versus two grown-ass, muscular men isn’t a fair fight. I was eventually tackled, hog-tied, and carried out into the night. I can remember screaming my ass off as a last ditch attempt to awake any potential witnesses in the neighborhood, and in my memory I remember a couple nearby bedroom lights turning on. My parents were nowhere to be seen, but I had more pressing things on my mind, like being chucked into the back of an unmarked black van like a bag of potatoes.
The ride to Maine was long. So long that I eventually grew tired of trying to get answers from the goons, fell asleep for six to eight hours, woke up, and we were still on the same damn highway. Little did I know that this experience was going to be nothing compared to the horrors I would soon face. By comparison, those goons treated me with respect and dignity, the last time I would feel that way for a very long time.
Oh yeah, remember earlier when I said I had been arrested and was facing a court date? I forgot to mention that I was with a friend when that happened. His parents hadn’t been intimidated by the corrupt judge so while I was away in Elan, deep in the woods of Maine fighting for my sanity. He faced his charges in court, the exact same charges I would have faced.
He plead guilty and got 30 hours of community service.