One of Elan’s greatest and most terrifying strengths was that you had no actual “sentence”. Unlike a court of law where the length of your punishment has some connection to your crimes, Elan was somehow given a blank check to keep you there until they deemed you fit to leave.
As far as Elan was concerned, simply being there meant you were guilty. Regardless of why you were sent there in the first place, you were going to face the same program that everyone else was facing. This was completely crazy because people were sent to Elan for vastly different reasons.
You had orphans sent to Elan simply because they were given up as babies and forced to survive in group-homes that used Elan as a threat to any child who complained about their treatment. You had repeat offender teens who were sent to juvenile detention centers that equally used Elan as a threat to anyone who stepped out of line.
You had everyone from teenagers who already had their own children, to kids who snuck out at night once or twice to the discomfort of their overbearing parents. You had kids who were already hardcore heroin addicts and you had teens sent because they got caught with a gram of marijuana. You had kids who stole cars, got into high-speed chases with the law and carried guns on the street and on the complete flip-side you had kids who had legitimately never done a bad thing in their life except having shitty parents who were begging for a reason to get rid of them or “straighten them out”.
And don’t be too mad at those parents. Though they do deserve some level of contempt, the vast majority had no clue at all what Elan was. Most simply thought it was a tough boarding school where the kids received a decent education and were taught to live on the straight and narrow. Elan had all kinds of tricks: fake tours, phony statistics and flat-out bogus advertisements. Check out these real Elan advertisements:
Elan was willing to say anything because one they got a child, that was 50-60 thousand dollars per year in their pocket. Sometimes the parents paid, sometimes the school district paid, sometimes the state paid, but Elan always got that money. How they were able to make these arrangements is anyone’s guess, CORRUPTION, but one thing is clear: there was no pre-defined time limit involved.
To get back to the subject of “The Book”, this was essentially the entire premise of what Elan called “the program”. From morning until night, except for a few hours during school, all we did was deal with the book. It was kind of like the internal engine that kept everything in place. It was the rock that we pushed to the top of the hill every single day only to awake the next morning to find out that it had rolled back down.
All day, every day, we had to deal with the book. Every single incident required a dealing crew. Kind of like how every single “charge” in the US needs to have some kind of court system process it. Well, our incidents were charges and the dealing crews were our court system. But obviously there was a never-ending string of incidents being booked every single day without fail, because we were all forced to do it.
Again, like a court of law, every single incident required a punishment. So at the end of your dealing crew you would receive one. And it was somebody’s job to record them all down. So you essentially always had a running tally of punishments. You constantly had a “bill” that was due and it followed you around in your Elan life. And no matter how often you paid and knocked down your punishment list, you were always just a day away from receiving more.
Beyond just thinking about dealing with the punishment side, think about the logistical side as well. Do you know how hard it is to run little courtrooms for 400+ incidents a day? To keep that system running, a system that required 4 people for every dealing crew and one of them always needed to be a Coordinator? What we called “Getting the book down” was an enormous task for us children to operate. It was like running a goddamn business. There was all kinds of paperwork involved, people in different levels following up on the tasks of people in lower levels, time-management, physically getting people to come “knock”, and much more. It was insane.
And all of this happening independent to the hell on Earth that we were already living in. Every General Meeting cut away at our time to get the book down. Every new kid in the Corner needed someone to monitor them, and that took a body away from helping to get the book down. Every time a kid freaked out and we all had to deal with it, the book continued to grow and we had less energy to knock it back down.
Our entire existence in Elan was built around a system where we all ratted each other out for incidents of “guilt” then dealt with those incidents using an internal court system that needed to be so efficient it could reset the number to zero before the next few hundred new incidents rolled in the next morning. And we did this every day from 9am to midnight, on very little sleep and very little food.
This was Elan. This was our existence.