Sunday, March 23, 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Save Isaac Hersh's Life!

Isaac Hersh / Micheal Hersch, Father
Law Offices
Joshua M. Ambush, LLC
Hilton Plaza
1726 Reisterstown Rd., Suite 206
Baltimore, Maryland 21208

Joshua M. Ambush, Esquire, 410-484-2070



March 20, 2008, Baltimore, MD

The Washington Center for Peace and Justice, Inc. filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of a 16 year old Brooklyn boy seeking injunctive relief to stop his abuse and to gain his release from a notorious behavior modification facility in Jamaica, West Indies, where he was sent after being brutally seized at the behest of his parents, Michael and Miriam Hersh. Michael Hersh is a former student of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin in Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, and a disciple of Rabbi Aaron M. Schecter, dean of the Yeshiva.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, details the long history of abuse of the boy by his father that culminated in his being forcibly removed from his mouse in the early morning hours on June 13, 2007. The boy was sadistically handcuffed and dragged to a waiting van by two men hired by his parents while shocked witnesses helplessly watched him plead with his abductors.

It was not until several months later that worried family members learned that the boy had been sent by his parents to Tranquility Bay, an affiliate of World Wide Association of Specialty Schools and Programs, WWASPS. The complaint details documented cases of abuse at Tranquility Bay which includes beatings, sexual assault, food deprivation and excessive use of isolation.

Joshua Ambush, the lead counsel in the case, announced the filing of the action against the parents. Michael Hersh, father of the boy is the CEO of Chevra Hatzalah Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Inc., the largest all-volunteer ambulance service in the United States. The complaint also names the State Department for constitutional and civil rights violations.

Ambush emphasized that the lawsuit is not about tort damages, but rather is an effort to save the boy's life and rescue him from a modern day concentration camp. "Child abuse by a parent should not be tolerated in civilized society, and should not be tolerated when the parents hires surrogates to perpetrate the abuse. It is unconscionable that perpetrators of abuse are able to evade prosecution by virtue of the fact that the abuse is taking place outside the jurisdiction of the Untied States. In addition to rescuing this child, this suit seeks to demonstrate that federal courts, in such cases, retain jurisdiction over the abusers and those that aid and protect them."

A copy of the complaint that was failed in this case is attached.

Joshua Ambush will be available for interviews by phone appointment at 410-484-2070


Please have Yitzchak Meir Ben Michael Chaim in mind in your Tefillos when you say "Matir Asurim" - This is a real Mitzvah of Pidyon Shvuyin.

Contact the following people to encourge them to FREE 16-year-old Isaac Hersh from his prison.

US Department of State
Office of Children's Issues

2201 C. Street NW, Washington DC

Michael and Miriam Hersh, Parents
1014 W. 10th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11230

Chevra Hatzalah Volulnteer Abmulance Corp, Inc.
1340 East 9th Street
Brooklyn , NY 11230

Rabbi Aaron M. Schecter, Dean (Aharon Moshe Schechter)
Mesivta Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin (Flatbush)
1593 Coney Island Ave.
Brooklyn, New York, 11230
(718) 377-0777


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so sad and scary.

How can a parent send a child to such a place?

Was Isaac using drugs?

Was he violent?

Did he have an arrest record?

From what I can find out the answer is no.

March 24, 2008 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been checking out Tranquilty Bay. It looks like there has been other frum kids sent there. I found the following postings on another blog.

What rav would allow frum kids to go to a place where they are not allowed to keep kosher or shabbat?
my name is Bassie Taibe, I live in Boro park with my husband and daughter. i was in tranquility bay for 13 months and was sent there from ivy ridge where i was at for 11 months. those years were the most hurtful, traumatic years of my life, and i cannot believe that this frum boy is stuck there now. what can i do???? maybe i can talk 2 his father or maybe my parents who live in monsey can talk 2 his parents, they didnt know i was being abused, they were very much deceived. there was no1 who cared enough to do any research. i really want to help this boy in any way i can. please give me an email adress where i can contact you or any1 else i could speak to. plz call me if you can at 646 316 4591 or at 718 687 8808.
[Date/Time=10-21-2007 - 3:21 AM] Name:bassie,

So i know this boy who was sent to tranquility bay and everyone who knows him is trying to do all we can to get him freed because his dad mcihael hersh knows that hes being abused bt does not care what happens to his son. so i would really appreciate it if we could get these posts against tranquility bay sent to the congress so they can investigate that place and hopefully shut it down. PLEASE FREE ISAAC & ALL THE OTHER KIDS SUFFERING!
[Date/Time=10-18-2007 - 9:43 PM] Name:anonymous


Please post your letter or story so that it can be submitted to Congress in relation to the October 10 hearing entitled, "Cases of Child Neglect and Abuse at Private Residential Treatment Facilities." Here is the website to post yor stories!:

March 24, 2008 8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Those of you unaware of what Tranquility Bay is, it is a facility for pre-teens and teens in Jamaica under the umbrella of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), an American-based organization. There have been hundreds of accounts of abuse there.

Last February families flew in to visit their kids at Tranquility Bay. Cindy is one of the mothers who went to visit her son, Mike. She brought her teenage daughter, Ashley with her.

When they arrived at the facility they were turned away because some were wearing sleeveless shirts. The parents were unaware there was a dress code for them. They had to take the long ride back to their hotels to change.

When they came back they were allowed on the property. While they were sitting around the pool a boy stepped out onto the balcony overhead and threw down a neatly folded piece of paper. Ashley, Mike’s sister, picked up the note while her mother, Cindy, looked up at the boy. He pulled up his shirt and Cindy saw bruising on his shoulders, under his armpits, and on his back. Cindy also saw another boy looking through the glass who had a metal plate in his mouth. Other parents witnessed this as well.

Cindy read C. S-S's letter. “… Please I am begging to get this note to the American Embassy because there are no staff here that will do anything … please please get this to the embassy so that I can talk to them ...”

In his letter he also wrote to his own mother, telling her: “… The staff then threw me down and started hitting my head over and over on the floor. One staff dropped his pen and the other staff picked it up and started to stab me in the right shoulder. While all this was happening other staff were punching me and hitting me with my sandals …”

Cindy forwarded the boy’s letter to CAICA. CAICA immediately contacted agencies in Jamaica - the American Embassy, Child Welfare, Unicef, the Ministry of Education and Youth – and the State Department. CAICA provided these agencies with Declarations, a copy of the boy’s letter, and the names of the boys who were being abused. Cindy indicated the facility claims no fault.

CAICA recently received a letter dated May 21, 2007, along with the Education Act, stating an investigation has been launched into this incident and that they are obtaining advice from their Attorney General in connection with their investigation. We await the outcome of their investigation.

Cindy, Ashley, and Mike had some time alone together. While they were down at the beach – an activity Mike said they are never allowed to do during his stay at Tranquility Bay - Mike told Cindy that children were being abused there - that the boy with the full jaw plate in his mouth had his upper left jaw shattered. He had been pinned down on the floor by several staff and was “smacked” in the face with staffs’ walkie-talkies. According to Mike, staff claimed that during the restraint the boy’s face bounced off the floor, breaking his jaw. The American Embassy said there is a pending investigation into this incident. Mike said injured kids are taken away from the facility when the Embassy comes for a visit (it is important to note he is not the first teen to say this – we at CAICA have heard this complaint numerous times at a number of WWASPS facilities).

Mike talked about medical neglect. He complained to staff that he was having difficulties breathing and he thought his nose was broken, but staff called him a liar telling him nothing was wrong. It took them weeks to get him to a doctor.

Before this incident occured Cindy had made it clear to Tranquility Bay that she did not want surgery performed on her son in Jamaica unless it was an absolute emergency. She told them if he needed surgery she would have him brought back to the US. They did not listen to her requests and had the surgery performed on her son in Jamaica without her knowledge.

Mike also indicated the facility had to cut back on academics because they were low on funds. In February 2007 the American Embassy indicated the numbers at Tranquility Bay had dropped.

Mike said a lot of the staff were fired because they were giving upper-level children alcohol and pot. Mike, who had reached upper level, ratted out his friends – a practice that is encouraged in many programs as a way to move up in the program. Many people believe this is done in an effort to keep kids there longer. At a rate of $3,000 to $5,000 per month, or more, this is quite an incentive.

While he was at the beach with his mom and sister, Mike was sunburned on his shoulders – shoulders that barely ever saw sunlight. Cindy could not understand why Mike was so upset. When he calmed down he told her he would be blamed for self-infliction of wounds and his levels would be dropped. Cindy did not believe this could possibly happen and explained to staff that Mike did not inflict this upon himself, that he did wear sunscreen, and that the reason he burned was probably because his shoulders hadn’t seen much sunlight in nearly two years. Staff assured her they would not drop his levels.

Cindy learned Mike’s levels were dropped and he was frightened. Everyone had found out it was Mike who ratted them out about the alcohol and the pot. He wanted to talk to his dad and said he feared for his life.

Frightened to return to the facility Cindy decided to take her younger daughter and fly back to the US. Before leaving Jamaica she said she contacted a transport company to pick up her son - Sunrise Transport out of Utah. The driver went above and beyond the call of duty to pick this child up and return him to his mom, all in the course of a day.

Parents and staff who witness abuse or neglect in programs have a duty to report

I commend Cindy for her courage and strength in reporting this incident to CAICA and by providing her and her daughter’s Declarations to us so that we could pursue an investigation into this issue.

Other parents were there. Other parents saw the incident. But other parents never came forward to tell what they saw. In fact, parents often believe the program when they tell them that their child is a liar, a manipulator, and that their child will self-inflict wounds just to try to get out of the program. Sadly, often these kids are telling the truth. I’m sure there have been some who have lied but it is irresponsible to assume they are all liars.

This, along with staff who fails to report, is in part why the abuse continues and why these children and youth are silenced.

Program directors and staff are telling parents that advocates are exaggerating and that what we say is too far-fetched. If that were the case why would nearly 150 people be filing a lawsuit against WWASPS alleging the very things advocates have been reporting about for years? Some parents have been told I’m a disgruntled parent when in fact I’ve never had a child in their programs. WWASPS are not the only ones – there are other programs and facilities that are being sued for abusing children and teens.

Some advocates, including myself, are people who learned that children and teens – by the thousands – were, and continue to be mentally and physically abused in facilities and programs, and that these kids are being warehoused for profit. We feel it is our obligation to expose what we know.

If everyone reported the abuse they witness – and we are all morally obligated to do that - at the time they witness it, or at the time their child is removed from the program and tells them they witnessed abuse, the abuse allegations would have to be investigated and people would not be so intimidated and afraid. As long as this remains silent, behind closed doors, thousands of children will continue to be mentally and physically abused each year.

This is a virtually unregulated multi-billion dollar a year silently emerging industry, there is no governmental oversight, and there is no single entity without a monetary interest looking out for the interest of these children. No entity that has the power to make unannounced visits to these otherwise very “private” programs. Congressman George Miller is trying desperately to change all of that.

I say “silent” because no matter how much we try to get the word out about abuse, neglect, and deaths in these programs people in the general public have no idea this industry even exists and that the abuse, neglect, and deaths exist. They should because their child, niece, nephew, grandchild, or friend could be next.

March 24, 2008 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


We need to raise awareness in our society about the problems of institutional abuse and mistreatment. Please help.

This wiki is a virtual grass roots effort to organize and speak out.

On October 10, 2007, the Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing in Congress entitled, "Cases of Child Neglect and Abuse at Private Residential Treatment Facilities." To view the hearing and read the testimony, including the GAO report, go to the Committee on Education and Labor website You can also read a written summary of the hearing that is posted on the A START website.

For two weeks after the hearing, there was an opportunity to submit for the congressional record written personal accounts and position statements regarding issues of mistreatment, abuse and neglect in youth residential programs. Letters and accounts posted to this wiki were submitted to Congress on October 24. To review the document that was submitted, click End Institutional Abuse Wiki Compilation.doc

Congress was also provided with the internet address for this wiki, so that Senators and Representatives will have an ongoing opportunity to visit this wiki and read letters and stories posted here. This could help to inform their understanding of the concerns and help them learn from people's suggestions about developing public policies to address the issues.

If you would like to submit a statement, letter or story to Congress, please click on the "discussion" tab above and post your letter or story.

Please note that this wikispaces site is a public site, so it is visible to anyone and everyone. Be careful to include only that information that you are comfortable sharing in the public domain.

Also, please recognize that wiki technology makes it possible for individuals to respond to one another's contributions. If you choose to respond to someone else's post, please maintain a respectful stance that honors the inherent dignity of that individual.

If you would like to provide input, feedback or suggestions regarding the "End Institutional Abuse Against Children Act," please click on "Federal Legislation" to the left, and submit your ideas on the corresponding discussion page. This legislation was proposed in 2005 and it is expected that it will be revised before it is reintroduced in Congress, so your ideas are needed.

Thanks for any help you can provide in bringing attention to these issues, in order to restore the safety and well-being of youth and families in our society.

March 24, 2008 8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Overseas Boot Camps: Trouble at Tranquility Bay
by Eve Tushnet
Jewish World Review
July 9, 2003 / 9 Tamuz, 5763

Jay Kay is probably regretting the day he let a reporter inside the compound.

Kay, the owner of the Tranquility Bay, Jamaica "specialty school" for troubled youth, told London Observer writer Decca Aitkenhead that if people could just see the school where 250 teens are undergoing "behavioral modification," the accusations against the school would dissipate. But no reporter had entered Tranquility Bay since 1998. Aitkenhead was allowed in--to show the world what the embattled school is really like--but Kay vowed that if the resulting news story was unfavorable, "Hell will freeze over before anyone gets in here again."

It looks like his vow will be tested. Aitkenhead didn't see the program as a tough-love haven for kids out of control. She saw, instead, a tough but loveless atmosphere that brainwashes and harms teens.

Tranquility Bay is one of 11 "specialty schools" run by the Utah-based Worldwide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (Wwasps). These schools employ harsh discipline in the hopes of reforming teens whose problems range from the life-threatening (drug addiction, suicide attempts) to the adolescent run of the mill (uncommunicative, rebellious, unhappy, hanging out with "bad influences"). As similar schools and programs come under increasing regulation in the United States, Wwasps began to move its operations overseas, opening schools in countries from Mexico to the Czech Republic.

Many of these schools have been assailed by critics. Five have already been closed: The Czech school closed following allegations of physical abuse, while the Costa Rican school was closed by local authorities in what turned into a small-scale riot.

Many parents find these schools on the Internet, and decide to send their kids away--even out of the country--without ever visiting the facilities where their children will stay. Many of the kids' families are riven by divorce. Aitkenhead was troubled by what she saw as many parents' belief that they could radically disrupt their children's lives through divorce, yet remain entitled to those children's unconditional love, happiness, and obedience.

And how does Tranquility Bay secure that love and obedience? Aitkenhead found that one of the main disciplinary methods is "Observation Placement," colloquially known as "lying on your face": "Guards take them (if necessary by force) to a small bare room and make them (again by force if necessary) lie flat on their face, arms by their sides, on the tiled floor. Watched by a guard, they must remain lying face down, forbidden to speak or move a muscle except for 10 minutes every hour, when they may sit up and stretch before resuming the position. Modest meals are brought to them, and at night they sleep on the floor of the corridor outside under electric light and the gaze of a guard. At dawn they resume the position.

"...Every 24 hours, students in OP are reviewed by staff, and only sincere and unconditional contrition will earn their release. If they are unrepentant? 'Well, they get another 24 hours.'"

More Observer vignettes from behavioral-modification school life: "In order to graduate, students must advance from level 1 to 6, which they do by earning points. ...On level 1, students are forbidden to speak, stand up, sit down or move without permission. ...[O]n level 3, they are granted a (staff-monitored) phone call home."

Colin Johnstone, 15, told the Utah-based Deseret News that he "got some good out of" his stay at Tranquility Bay. "But it is kind of like torture. It did me more damage than good." His mother told reporters that he "had two teeth knocked loose by a staff member's fist and spent at least eight months in the isolation room."

The New York Times report on Casa by the Sea interviewed Laura Hamel, a student who "said she was demoted from Level 3 back to Level 1 after giving a weeping, lonely friend a hug and a kiss on the cheek at Thanksgiving. Affection of that kind is forbidden."

Three former students at Wwasps' closed Costa Rica school told the Associated Press that punishments included having to"'sweep the sunshine'--use a broom to sweep pavement until sunburns formed" and kneeling "on sharp rocks."

Children as young as twelve years old are sent to these programs.

Maybe these are some of the reasons that Tranquility Bay requires parents to sign a contract permitting the Jamaican staff to use any necessary force, and waiving the facility's liability for any harm sustained by a child. And these facts may also help explain why Tranquility Bay, like many of the harsher "behavioral modification" facilities, often advises parents to use an escort service--i.e. strange men appearing at your bedside in the middle of the night, handcuffing you, and taking you to the airport. These programs often strictly limit contact between parent and child for the first several months or more, and parents are warned that any negative reports their children make are likely the results of manipulativeness. Put together, this is a recipe for avoiding scrutiny and accountability.

So far, New York Newsday reports, seven lawsuits have been filed against Wwasps affiliates, but none have succeeded.

And Wwasps is far from the only group whose schools have run into trouble. Many other "tough love"-style camps and schools have had problems that should give any parent pause--if not nightmares. It's easy to understand the impulse behind the industry regulations that have led some facilities to move overseas: It's hard to avoid regulation and lawsuits when you've got a 14-year-old boy dying of heat exhaustion after vomiting dirt in the desert, as happened at the America's Buffalo Soldiers camp in Arizona in 2001.

Then there was Aaron Bacon, who never returned from the North Star camp. His corpse was covered in bruises and open sores after his death in the Arizona desert in 1994. Then there was Gina Score, who, according to The Progressive, died on her second day at South Dakota's Plankinton boot camp after a 2.7-mile morning run that left her "lying in a pool of her own urine, frothing at the mouth, gasping for breath, twitching, and begging for 'mommy,' according to eyewitnesses."

The camps should be investigated, and graduates and current participants in the programs should be interviewed, for signs of child abuse. And parents seeking help for genuinely disturbed children should look elsewhere. For example, not all wilderness-therapy programs follow a "boot camp" model; some, like those run by the Arizona-based Anasazi Foundation, follow a more flexible model. The National Association of Therapeutic Wilderness Camps also endorses a long-term, non-punitive approach. Parents can also check out Troubled Children Inc., which matches children with programs suited to their needs. Look for warning signs like sharply limited contact between parents and kids; attempts by the school to turn parents against their children; use of "escorts"; and an emphasis on tough discipline, force, and obedience.

Sunny Jamaica is not the answer.

March 24, 2008 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grand Cayman concerned about citizens being sent to Tranquility Bay
Radio Jamaica
Thursday, 06 March 2008

Concerns have again been voiced about the use of Tranquility Bay in St. Elizabeth as a rehabilitation centre for troubled teens.

The issue was raised in Grand Cayman following reports of a juvenile who was allegedly moved from a girls' home there to the Jamaican facility without the family's approval.

Tranquility Bay is described as a specialty boarding school.

The issue of whether it is in the best interest of Caymanian youth to be sent to the facility was questioned by the judge in the case.

The judge said it was high time that the Cayman Islands explored setting up its own facility where troubled young people can receive education and therapy.

The institution at Tranquility Bay operates under the guidelines of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, located in Utah in the US.

In the absence of a secure, educational facility in the Cayman Islands, young people who are not part of the criminal justice system there but need to be kept in a secure place are sent here to Tranquility Bay.

March 24, 2008 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Editorial: Taking care of our troubled youth
Cayman News Network
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Since Cayman Net News has been running a short series of articles highlighting the questionable merits of sending one of our troubled juveniles to the self-described ‘specialty boarding school’ Tranquility Bay in Jamaica, we have been contacted by authors and former “students” – inmates is perhaps a more accurate description – and obtained hundreds of pages of court documents that give rise to enormous cause for concern.

By any measure, the Cayman Islands is a relatively wealthy country and there is really no excuse for the failure to provide proper care locally for some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society – our troubled youth and the mentally ill.

It’s not that we don’t have the money – it’s just that those in charge in successive governments have chosen to spend it on other things, whether worthwhile or not.

HMP Northward has long been used by the authorities as a convenient holding facility for local individuals with long-term mental issues and it seems as though Tranquility Bay in Jamaica may now be viewed as the equivalent for our troubled youth.

According to court documents filed in Circuit Court in Tazewell County, Virginia, Tranquility Bay is referred to as “a dangerous facility” and the court heard testimony as to “the maltreatment of the students, of the unsanitary conditions that these children are forced to live in.”

Two young people that completed the programme at Tranquility Bay, in telling the court in Virginia of their experiences, used words like “emotional torture, filthy, maggots, parasites, lack of medical treatment, abuse and physical restraint.”

The judge in that case ordered the immediate return of the child in question to the United States.

In the case of the mentally ill, the fact is that such people very often cannot help themselves in terms of their own actions and thus have only a minimal responsibility at best for the things they do.

It is therefore wholly ineffective to lock them up as if they were capable of completely rational thought and action, when they need a different kind of remedy – one that has never been available in the Cayman Islands.

And this results in the ongoing problem here that such people, who are in need of ongoing care and treatment, are just let loose on the streets until they do something that puts them right back where they started – behind bars. And so the cycle repeats itself endlessly until something really serious happens and the person concerned has to be incarcerated for the rest of his life.

This is fundamentally wrong for all concerned: the members of the public that are unknowingly at risk, the prison staff that have to cope with mentally ill inmates and the individual himself, who is not getting the care and treatment he needs and which surely this country is able to afford.

Ever since HMP Northward was commissioned in 1981, it has been serving as a holding facility for the mentally ill; some because they are deemed by the Courts to be medically unfit to stand trial, while others because they are considered potentially dangerous and therefore a threat to the community at large.

The minister responsible, Hon. Anthony Eden, has admitted that HMP Northward is not the appropriate place to detain and care for the mentally ill but, so far as we are aware, this was the last official word on the subject.

Apparently, the ubiquitous consultant has prepared a draft document, which addresses possible amendments to the mental health legislation, but any further progress will require some action in the face of the traditional reluctance to do anything at all, which has been the hallmark of successive governments over the years.

Similarly, when preparing the several recent articles on Tranquility Bay, it has been difficult and sometimes impossible to get meaningful comments from the relevant government agencies, let alone any indication that the problem is acknowledged and is being addressed.

As in the case of the adult mentally ill, the children sent to Tranquility Bay may not be fully responsible for their own inappropriate behaviour and it does no one any good just to ship them off to a facility that has such a dreadful reputation.

This is really not good enough for this country and our young people, and we trust that those responsible in government and the judiciary will now take a long, hard look at the situation.

March 24, 2008 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Youth pleads to get out of rehab
Cayman Net News
Friday, February 29, 2008

Latchmin “Charlene” Scott

A 16-year-old girl, who was forcibly sent to Tranquility Bay in Jamaica for rehabilitation, has made a “heart-wrenching” plea to her mother to remove her from the youth facility.

A letter, which was given to Cayman Net News by the minor’s mother, Latchmin “Charlene” Scott, is dated 27 January and was given to Mrs Scott by her daughter’s former Social Worker, Carol Robinson, during the week beginning 17 February.

“I really need you at this time; please I am begging you to get me out of here. Please it was bad enough in girls home but now it’s worse,” writes the minor.

The issue was first reported in this publication earlier this month after the juvenile was allegedly swiftly moved from the Frances Bodden Girls Home in Grand Cayman to Tranquility Bay without the family’s approval.

The young person’s aunt, Jan Scott of Cayman Brac, expressed concerns over possible violations of her niece’s human rights and said the minor was not properly assessed before being dispatched to Jamaica for rehabilitation.

Jan Scott also stated that she felt the decision and handling of the matter was unjust and may worsen her niece’s condition.

Latchmin Scott is very concerned with the way in which her daughter has been treated by the authorities. “She needed help but it could have happened in a different way,” she said.

The mother explained that her daughter, who went to the Frances Bodden Girls Home in September 2007 after being made a ward of the court, was not happy at that facility. According to Latchmin Scott, her daughter’s dissatisfaction was not helped by the Department of Children and Family Services’ decision to prevent her from visiting or maintaining contact with her mother.

Latchmin Scott said that she had always sought to maintain communication with her daughter, an issue that is now exacerbated by her removal to Tranquility Bay.

She believes that Ms Robinson, who was the social worker in the case prior to the minor’s removal to Tranquility Bay, misled her about the action that would be taken by the Department of Children and Family Services following a third suicide attempt by her daughter.

Rather than sending the teenager to the Jamaican facility, “she (Ms Robinson) told me the judge was re-considering the decision to go to Tranquility Bay,” and would withdraw the order pending further investigations, said Latchmin Scott.

However, Latchmin Scott later found out that her daughter was sent to the facility in Jamaica the very day she and Ms Robinson had that conversation.

In her letter, the minor describes how she feels about being at the rehabilitation centre. “I am so depressed and frustrated; this place is much worse than you think and heard.”

She continues, “Yesterday a supervisor came and told me that the court order was for two years but Mommy … I know I won’t last here two months or more!”

Speaking of her future, the teenager states, “But my future has pure grey clouds and overcast skies from my point of view. Me coming here made my intentions of becoming a lawyer or something in life (go) down the drain.”

“Mom, you know me inside out and when I tell you that I’m not happy and comfortable you know what I mean, how I feel and what I’m capable of doing.”

While Latchmin Scott was pleased to hear from her daughter, she was equally upset by its content and felt that the system had failed her daughter.

Ms Robinson was asked to comment on the case. She said it was no longer on her caseload and that queries should be directed to Deanna Lookoy, Director of Children and Family Services.

Efforts to get comments from Mrs Lookloy by email and telephone before press deadline were unsuccessful.

March 24, 2008 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mother alleges assault on son at school
Cayman Net News
Monday, March 17, 2008

Parent Donecia Hue

The mother of a nine-year-old boy attending Prospect Primary School has expressed shock and disappointment with the school system after an alleged assault on her son by the father of another boy.

When questioned on the matter, the Chief Education Officer, Shirley Wahler, acknowledged the incident but said, “At this point our investigation is completed and a meeting was held today with the Department for Children and Family Services. A full case conference has been scheduled to resolve the matter.”

Mrs Wahler added: “We are satisfied that the child was not assaulted in the manner described.”

The education official further said that the Deputy Chief Education Officer and the Learning Community Leader were involved in the investigation. Efforts made to get comments from Adora Groome-Bodden (the Learning Community Leader) proved unsuccessful before press time.

According to Donecia Hue, her son was involved in an altercation with the boy on Thursday, 6 March. The school contacted Ms Hue asking her to come in to discuss the matter, but she said it was not possible to do so at the time the school suggested.

The mother said the meeting subsequently took place on that Thursday afternoon without her being present, at which time the alleged assault occurred. Based on what her son related, the meeting took place in the Principal’s office between the other student’s parents, Gloria Bell (the principal) and Ms Hue’s son.

Ms Hue’s understanding of the events is that at some time during that meeting the father of the other boy lifted her son by his shirt collar, threw him into a chair and hit him forcibly in the eye to demonstrate how it felt. Ms Hue’s son had reportedly caused injury to the other child’s eye during their fight.

“The people who are supposed to be protecting our children don’t seem to care,” she said in a telephone interview with Cayman Net News on Wednesday, 12 March adding that her son had not been back at school since 6 March.

Ms Bell vehemently rejected the allegation: “The child’s father spoke sternly to (Ms Hue’s son), he did not assault him. It was (Ms Hue’s son) who punched the (other) child in the right eye which was swollen and couldn’t open for two hours.”

She added that Ms Hue’s son “was seated on the chair throughout” the meeting and that he had sat in the chair after being invited to do so.

When asked if it was normal practice to allow parents to speak with other people’s children without their parents’ permission, she said that both sets of parents were invited to discuss the matter on the day of the incident, but that Ms Hue said she was unable to attend.

The Principal indicated that there were deeper issues to consider, as she said Ms Hue’s son had a history of violence and aggressive behaviour at school.

Ms Hue challenged this perception by stating that, whilst her son had a short temper and had previously been disciplined because of bad behaviour, he had become labeled as a difficult child and was not believed when he complained about other children’s behaviour towards him.

“No attention is given to my son when he raises concerns. He says ‘they never listen to me’ and so he is frustrated because he is chased away when he complains to Ms Bell and other teachers,” she said.

Ms Hue says that she contacted various agencies on Friday, 7 March to complain about her son’s treatment. They include the Department of Education, social services and the police. At the time of writing this article, she said she had not received a response from anyone, nor been contacted by the school.

Ms Bell maintains however, that an invitation to discuss the matter had been extended to Ms Hue in a letter. The mother refutes that she was given a ‘letter’ but said she received a form, on the day of the fight, letting her know of her son’s suspension and asking her to go into the school to discuss the matter at 2:00 pm on Monday, 10 February.

Ms Hue said she was advised not to go to the meeting because of her feelings of anger, which may have undermined her intentions for her son.

The incident raises issues echoed in recent articles about the treatment and protection of children within the education system. There is reportedly an investigation into allegations of improper conduct by a male teacher, at John Gray High School, towards female students.

The recent transfer of a 16-year-old female to Tranquility Bay in Jamaica has raised concerns about the whether the government is acting in the young person’s best interest by sending her to an unregulated facility where staff are reportedly unqualified to deal with troubled young people.

March 24, 2008 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tranquility Bay: helping or harming Cayman's youth?
Cayman Net News
March 6, 2008

Boys lying on their faces in “observation placement” at Tranquility Bay.

Concerns are once again being voiced about the use of Tranquility Bay, in Jamaica, as a rehabilitation centre for young Caymanians.

The issue came to the public’s attention following reports of a juvenile who was allegedly swiftly moved from the Frances Bodden Girls Home in Grand Cayman to the facility without the family’s approval.

Described as a ‘specialty boarding school’, Tranquility Bay is a privately run educational facility for troubled youth. The institution operates under the guidelines of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), located in St George, Utah.

According to the institution’s website, the mission statement is “To challenge and motivate the student in a structured, individualized learning environment, which provides exposure to development of skills and attitudes necessary for academic and social success so they become mature, responsible and contributing members of society.”

In the absence of a secure, educational facility in the Cayman Islands, young people who are not part of the criminal justice system and cannot go to Eagle House, but who need a more secure facility than can be provided by the Frances Bodden Girls Home and Bonaventure Boys Home, are sent to Tranquility Bay.

In a letter to this publication, Maia Szalavitz expressed shock at learning that young people are sent to Tranquility Bay from the Cayman Islands. Ms Szalavitz is author of the book ‘Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids’ (Riverhead Books, 2006).

The author said that whilst researching for her book she “spoke to dozens of parents and teens who report horrifying abuses at Tranquility Bay”. She also said that the care provided by the institution was not linked with the successful treatment of children but, “with post-traumatic stress disorder and increased risk of ongoing problems like addiction”.

The Final Report of Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee’s (HRC) observations on a series of hearings involving females facing criminal allegations in the Youth Court during 2007 raised a ‘significant’ number of human rights concerns.

The Report recognises the difficulties faced by agencies in reaching an appropriate resolution in complex cases that have competing and conflicting priorities.

However, it points to various legal instruments that highlight the need to take account of the interest of juveniles, particularly the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (otherwise known as The Beijing Rules) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

“What is clear from both the Beijing Rules and the CRC is that the interests of the child should be the main concern,” reads the Report. It also refers to Article 3 of the CRC which states:

“In all actions involving children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

The issue of whether sending young people to the Jamaican facility is in ‘the best interest’ of Caymanian youth was questioned by the judge in the case of one of the aforementioned young females.

The Report quotes the judge as stating, “In the absence of formal ruling from ministers, young defendants go to Tranquility Bay. In our experience it is uniformly bad.”

“It is high time that we have a facility here or explore alternatives,” the judge is reported as saying.

“We need a secure facility with an education facility… We need a secure remand facility where (young people) can receive education and therapy… Eagle House does not begin to meet needs of boys and for girls there is nothing at all… Frances Bodden is a home, it does not offer counselling and is not properly built for re-training or re-education… We need some facility between home and prison.”

The HRC’s Report on the Convention of the Rights of the Child dated Wednesday, 13 September 2006 refers to the Children Law 2003, which was drawn up to protect children and to ensure their rights contained in the CRC. However at the time of the Report the Law had not been enforced and to date, still remains un-enforced.

One of the concerns raised by Latchmin ‘Charlene’ Scott, the mother of the young person recently sent to Tranquility Bay, is the apparent secrecy surrounding the centre and the inability for her child to make contact with family members by telephone.

When asked to comment on this practice Deanna Look Loy, Director of the Children and Family Services Department said, “The restrictions regarding parental contact via telephone is in accordance with the rules of Tranquility Bay.”

An email was sent to the Academic Administrator at Tranquility Bay, seeking comments on the institution’s educational provision. A response was not received prior to going to print.

March 24, 2008 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tranquility Bay is 'private jail', author says
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Cayman Net News

Steel gate and high walls keep young people inside the “school” at Tranquility Bay.

Reports on the use of Tranquility Bay in Jamaica, as a rehabilitation facility for troubled youth in the Cayman Islands has come under fierce criticism from American journalist and author Maia Szalavitz.

Speaking to Cayman Net News in a telephone interview on Monday, 10 March, she said: “No other government has ever sent a child there.”

Ms Szalavitz, who contacted Net News after reading a previous article with family members raising concerns about a young Caymanian at the facility, is author of the book “Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids” (Riverhead Books, 2006). She said that whilst researching for her book she “spoke to dozens of parents and teens who report horrifying abuses at Tranquility Bay.”

According to Ms Szalavitz, she spent three years “looking at troubled teen programmes” when researching her book, and estimates that about 20 per cent of that time was spent on Tranquility Bay.

Her research took her to Jamaica in an attempt to get inside the facility, but she was refused entry. “It looks like a South American prison,” Ms Szalavitz said of what she observed from the outside.

She related seeing bars on windows which were blacked out, preventing anyone from looking in and keeping those inside from looking out.

“Basically, it is an unregulated, private jail,” she said. “They are complete amateurs; I don’t understand why any government agency would send children there.”

The privately run facility for troubled youth operates under the guidelines of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), located in St George, Utah.

According to their website, “The structured learning environment at our school allows students to acquire the skills necessary to succeed academically and socially at Tranquility Bay and throughout their life.”

However, a Google search for the facility produces a plethora of articles challenging this assertion and highlighting the questionable techniques used at the centre that is reportedly run by a former gas station attendant, Jay Kay.

The centre, which is reportedly reluctant to open its doors to the scrutiny of the press, is believed to have given access only to two reporters since its establishment in 1997; an American Time Magazine journalist in 1998 and Decca Aitkenhead, of the UK’s Observer newspaper, who visited the facility in 2003.

According to Mr Aitkenhead, “The first impression once inside Tranquility Bay’s perimeter walls is of disconcerting quiet. Students are moved around the property in silence by guards in single file, 3ft apart - a complicated operation, because girls and boys must be kept segregated at all times, forbidden to look at one another.”

Describing the close scrutiny that each young person is subject to at the facility he reports, “The only moment a student is alone is in a toilet cubicle; but a chaperone is standing right outside the door, and knows what he or she went in to do, because when students raise their hand for permission to go, they must hold up one finger for ‘a number one’, and two for ‘a number two’.”

In the article, Mr Kay’s disregard for proper qualifications to run the centre is startling. “Experience in this job is better than any degree” he is quoted as saying. “Am I an educational expert? No. But I know how to hire people to get the job done.”

In perhaps one of the most chilling observations made by Mr Aikenhead, he said, “Tranquility is basically a private detention camp. But it differs in one important respect. When courts jail a juvenile, he has a fixed sentence and may think what he likes while serving it, whereas no child arrives at Tranquility with a release date.”

According to Ms Szalavitz, the unregulated nature of the industry that has grown up around the treatment of troubled youth allows parents to be deceived into thinking that such centres are good for their children.

“The people who run these programmes are very slick and run a good game. The kids are not convicted of crimes,” she added. “Parents are drawn into it because it seems good” for their children.

Efforts to get comments from the Ministry of Health and Human Services proved unsuccessful before going to print.

March 24, 2008 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Family worry over child's welfare
February 5, 2008
Cayman Net News

Jan Scott
Relative to a juvenile moved to Tranquillity Bay
in Jamaica

The inadequacy of juvenile detention and rehabilitation facilities in the Cayman Islands, which has resulted in the use of the Tranquillity Bay youth rehabilitation facility in Jamaica, has once again raised questions about the level of treatment given to Caymanian youth.

Jan Scott of Cayman Brac has expressed concerns over possible violations of a relative’s human rights after the juvenile was allegedly swiftly moved from the Frances Bodden Girls Home in Grand Cayman to Tranquillity Bay without the family’s approval. Ms Scott said the minor was not properly assessed before being dispatched to Jamaica for rehabilitation. She feels the decision and the handling of the matter was unjust and may worsen the child’s condition.

Over the past week, Cayman Net News has been contacting the Department of Children and Family Services, CAYS Foundation and the Human Rights Committee for comments through phone calls and emails, but all remained tight-lipped on the matter. Numerous numbers dialled for Tranquillity Bay in Jamaica went unanswered for several days.

Maureen Brooks, Frances Bodden Girls Home Manager, said that, as the matter relates to a juvenile, she would prefer that media inquires be addressed to the CAYS Foundation. The CAYS Foundation, a government entity, oversees both the girls’ and boys’ homes in Grand Cayman.

Following the death of one parent, the minor moved in with the other parent but that relationship soured, resulting in the child being sent to Frances Bodden Girls Home.

According to Ms Scott, the relative is still mourning the death of her parent and is apparently “acting out” or “seeking attention” – a cry for help, as she described it.

The child’s troubles began, Ms Scott alleges, when the juvenile was taken to court for an incident at school for which the court advised that she be sent to Tranquillity Bay. This decision, coupled with “other issues,” drove her over the edge, Ms Scott believes.

Ms Scott further alleged that the child was “pulled from her bed” at Frances Bodden and “locked up” by police before sending her to the Tranquillity Bay facility for rehabilitation.

There are outstanding questions about the handling, treatment, possible violation of human rights and care of this child, Ms Scott said. She contacted the Civil Service who, she said, had “insufficient information on this serious matter”.

The situation has had an even more devastating effect because no family member was able to see the child before she was flown off the Island, she said.

Another concern raised by her is that the child may not be able to sit external exams in June.

Tranquillity Bay in Jamaica claims its programme opens up new ways to help young people build character in order to achieve family peace and harmony.

Tranquillity Bay was opened in 1997 and is in a remote area of Treasure Beach near St Elizabeth, west of Kingston, on the premises of a former oceanfront hotel. It is owned and operated by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP). WWASP holds about 2,400 children and youth ranging from seven to 18 in facilities in the United States, Jamaica and Mexico.

Charging around US$40,000 a year per student, the institution is permitted to operate unsupervised in Jamaica as long as it abides by sanitary regulations. As for the treatment of the children, enrolment contracts transfer guardianship of children to Tranquillity Bay, which permits staff to use physical restraint “if deemed necessary.”

Roy Bodden visited Tranquility Bay when he was Minister of Education a few years ago.

“I recalled that the facility was not without controversy at the time, but I got a good impression during that visit,” he said.

“The facility staff were very frank and open and I don’t think we were deprived of seeing any areas, including the restraining room. We also had the chance to have a forthright discussion with some of the young people there, and I liked what I saw.”

Cayman Net News will continue to seek comments from the agencies involved despite thus far being stonewalled.

March 24, 2008 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

March 24, 2008 12:58 PM  
Blogger Mindy said...


Wait one minute here- I happen to know the family personally, and let me tell you this: the family is a wonderful wonderful family who went through a lot of tzaros in general, and what I can tell you is that YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON. The father and mother are wonderful wonderful people, who in general are excellent parents and have raised beautiful children. They made the decision to sned this child to this school becasue THIS CHILD NEEDED IT. I feel bad for the family and I wish I didn't have to say this, but this kid could be a hard core criminal if he wasn't sent there. Do you want this kid to become a rapist/psychopathic killer when he grows up? Because this is the only thing keeping him back from there. Trust me, the parents love him and care for him and want him to be NORMAL and not a danger to society, which he already is. I understand that from a supericial glance it appears horrific, but you don't understand that this is the only thing that will SAVE him. If you want to pray for him pray that this place will staighten him out, and tell everyone you can the truth.

March 25, 2008 11:36 PM  
Anonymous open letter said...


After speaking with numerous Hatzoloh members it has been made clear that the people primarily responsible for the hiring of Michael Hersh and seeing Hatzoloh dragged into the public eye are;

Zelig Gitelis (F-19) who lives at 1319 East 26th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210 [Cell no. 1-917-612-3519 – Home no. 1-718-434-5359];


Yitzi Stern (B-30) who lives at 1405 48th Street, Brooklyn NY 11204 [Cell no. 1-917-559-8880 – Home no. 718-633-3905].

They were the active members of the Hatzoloh search committee and offered the most vocal support for his hire. They failed us and their executive responsibilities by hiring someone with no previous employment history and a record of child abuse. In addition, the fact that we’re paying him an annual salary $250,000 is an outrage.

All this on the say of Rabbi Aaron Schechter.

Their responsibilities are to Hatzoloh and the Jewish community who support Hatzoloh, not to any individual or other group. We hold them personally responsible for this embarrassment of Hatzoloh, Klal Yisroel’s proudest organization, and demand they take immediate action to see that Hatzoloh is kept out of the news and can return to their incredible mission of saving, not assisting in the destruction of, Jewish lives.

We are going to research and post the names of all the guilty members of the Hatzoloh board that caused this travesty and hold them personally responsible for their actions.

March 26, 2008 12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out the Teen Advocates USA blog "STOP CHILD PROFITEERING IN AMERICA" which has a lot of information on the troubled teen industry as well as a list of children who have died in private and government funded treatment programs.


March 26, 2008 2:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know "Isaac". He's a sweet boy. The problem is that his parents are crazy. Control freaks. They don't look at their children as human. They look at the children as if they are possessions.

We all need to do what we can to protect the remaining six children who are still living at home. We need to be encouraging child protective services in NYC to step in and remove the remaining Hersh children from the parents.

What parent in their right mind would send a child to a hell hole like Tranquility Bay. All one needs to do is google the place and see that it's nothing more then a torture chamber.

And for the rav who gave his approval . . . he should have his smeecha revoked and possibly be sent to prison. I think that both parents and the rav should be sent to Tranquility Bay and given the same treatment that poor Isaac has been given. They should be sentenced there for at least 6 months to a year.

March 26, 2008 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rory Lancman in this article is an orthodox Jew who davens at the Young Israel of Hillcrest. Bravo to him.

The former rabbi at this Young Israel is Rabbi Simcha Krauss who led an effort to get Ephraim Bryks kicked off the Vaad Harabbonim of Queens. Bryks has a lot of protection in Queens because his brother in law is Paysach Krohn and because his friend Rabbi Israel Belsky (of Kolko cover up infamy) is also good friends with Queens Vaad honcho Rabbi Peretz Steinberg.

March 26, 2008 10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abusive torture NEVER straightens anyone out!! Jewish people are rachmunim--this is pure rishus!! I have also met Michoel Hersh and was very impressed by him, but this horrifies me beyond belief. For a person that is involved with chesed on the level that he is--the only way to understand why he would do this to his son is because his own kavod is more important to him than his son's life!

March 27, 2008 10:28 PM  

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