The U.S. Congressional Committee on Education and Labor got an earful on April 24: a day of evidence and testimony about the physical, sexual, and psychological abuse of young people at gulag schools, or behavior modification facilities, across the country, and the deceptive marketing practices they use to ensnare the children of frustrated parents. After a year of congressional investigation, the chairman of the committee, Rep. George Miller, advocates federal laws that will regulate these facilities, requiring that staff be trained and parents be fully informed, and empowering the Department of Health and Human Services to inspect the programs. The committee heard not only from GAO investigators but also from victims of gulag schools, such as Jon Martin-Crawford, who testified, “The nightmares and psychological scars of being dragged from your home to a place in the middle of nowhere, restrained in blankets and duct tape, assaulted, verbally and physically… those scars and that trauma will never go away.” Jon, as well as another program survivor who testified, Kathryn Whitehead, are both on the board of the Community Alliance For the Ethical Treatement of Youth, a NYRA ally. Among the attendees was NYRA executive director Alex Koroknay-Palicz.

The Government Accountability Office submitted two new reports on abuse and deceptive marketing at residential treatment centers: Death, Abuse and Deceptive Marketing and Oversight Gaps May Increase Risk to Youth Also, watch video from the hearing here.

Be sure to write your Congressperson and tell them to support H.R. 5876, the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008. This is the biggest pro-youth rights bill in Congress in decades, if you’ve never written a letter to Congress before, please do so now.