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January 3, 2009

Kelly Matthews

Dear Kelly,
This is an apology to Survivors of Straight Inc. from me, as a Former Executive Staff Member, in response to the Straight, Inc. Survivor's Letter Requesting Acknowledgment and an Apology.

As you know, my name is Richard Mullinax. From 1985 - 1989, I was a staff member at Straight Incorporated, a drug and alcohol treatment facility for adolescents. If my memory serves me correctly, the dates, locations and positions of my employment were as follows:

Fall 1985 - Group Staff Trainee, Springfield, VA
Fall 1985 - Spring 1986 - Junior Staff, Springfield, VA
Spring 1986 - Winter 1987 - Senior Staff, Springfield, VA
Winter 1987 - Spring 1987 - Executive Staff, Springfield, VA
Spring 1987 - Fall 1987 - Executive Staff, Cincinnati, OH
Fall 1987 - Spring 1988 - Executive Staff, Springfield, VA
Spring 1988 - Spring 1989 - Executive Staff, Atlanta, GA

There were brief periods between 1985 and 1989 that I was not employed by Straight, and I may have some of the months wrong above.

For 19 years, I gave very little thought to my actions as a staff member of Straight. Then, in the Spring and Summer of 2008, I began to interact with Straight Survivors and listened to their experiences. As the weeks and months progressed, I became increasingly aware of the damage I caused to Straight Survivors as a staff member. After much reflection on the events of the 1980's I have become very much aware that many Straight Survivors lost their integrity, innocence, sense of self worth, youth, ability to trust others, family relationships and more as a result of my actions as a staff member, and I deeply regret that I am responsible for this as a Staff Member.

I realize now that many Survivors still suffer from diagnosed psychological disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder, severe depression, social phobias, panic disorders, etc. caused by imprisonment in Straight, Inc, and that many Survivors still endure vivid Straight, Inc. nightmares, can still hear the screams of children as they were abused, and cannot forget the abuse they personally endured or witnessed as vulnerable children. I am deeply ashamed of my role in this, including not putting a stop to it.

I am acknowledging to you that Straight, Inc. unjustly committed various crimes, abused children, and utilized extremely unethical practices against innocent young clients, which included, but were not limited to the following:

1) Brainwashing (aka coercive thought reform);
2) Physical abuse;
3) Usage of illegal and or unethical restraints - children routinely restrained children at the direction of staff for minor infractions (i.e. not motivating, not paying attention, etc.);
4) Unethical forms of extreme humiliation, including but not limited to; beltlooping, no privacy/watched while urinating, defecating, or bathing, motivating;
5) Food deprivation (ie. peanut butter diets, inadequate portions of food);
6) Sleep deprivation - caused by unwarranted, prolonged daily group hours (12), other time spent in the building (up to at least 3 additional pre and/or post group hours), lengthy commuting time, and in many cases, due to intentionally withholding sleep as punishment for not "cooperating" to coerce compliance;
7) Verbal abuse - unduly harsh confrontational tactics that included swearing, screaming, yelling, spitting, belittling, humiliating, etc., a child in front of a large group of child clients;
8) Sexual abuse; (while I was not aware of this while on staff, in recent months I have become aware, through the testimony of other Straight survivors, that this did happen)
9) Psychological abuse;
10) Coerced confessions;
11) Unjustifiable and lengthy isolation in intake and/or time out rooms;
12) Denial of necessary medical care;
13) Kidnapping;
14) False Imprisonment;
15) Accepting clients with little/no drug history (the so?called "dry druggie" theory); (Specifically, I was personally responsible for conducting client intakes that resulted in children with little history of drug or alcohol use);
16) Employing uneducated, unprofessional teenage staff. Specifically, I allowed myself to be employed by Straight as a counselor, knowing full well that I had no outside training and no education.

Additionally, I apologize for allowing the abuse, unethical practices and crimes to continue for years, and lending my name to, sponsoring, recommending, and endorsing Straight Inc., and for admitting children, their siblings and parents to Straight Inc., and for failing to properly and adequately oversee and monitor Straight, Inc.

I regret my decision to go on staff and I regret my actions as a Straight staff member. I made the decision to go on staff and I made the decision to advance to Executive Staff. I am responsible for these actions and take full responsibility. As a former Straight client myself, I, of all people, should have known better.

I am aware of several former Straight clients who have taken their own lives as Steve did. Many of these people I knew personally, including Chris Weiss, Lisa D, Ira, Duane and others. I can't begin to understand all of these deaths, but I damn sure know Straight is why Steve took his life. My heart aches for you and your Mom. I wish I could bring him back.

I would like to turn the clock back to 1985 and make better decisions. However, I am unable to undo the damage I have caused. I am unable to make any financial restitution to former victims, as well. However, in recent months, thanks to you, I have had the honor and privilege of interacting with former Straight clients who were victims of my actions and the actions of other Straight staff.

It is my hope that these interactions have been a step toward healing the wounds that have remained for 2 decades.

Along those lines, there is something I can do; I can make myself available to you. If you or your Mom or anyone else wants to talk or e?mail with me about this, please do.

It is my hope that other Executive Staff and administrators will take this opportunity to acknowledge and apologize for their part in Straight, Inc. If you know of any former staff would like to communicate with me privately for any reason, please pass my contact info on.

In closing, it is my sincere hope that survivors of Straight can find the healing and closure that they need and deserve. I look forward to being a part of that healing.

And thanks for making this possible.
Richard Mullinax
Straight Inc. Staff
1985 - 1989