Thursday, June 28, 2007

Concerns at Tranquility Bay



Tranquility Bay is a residential facility in Jamaica for youth. It has been under scrutiny for quite some time with former students alleging serious forms of abuse and neglect and parents alleging fraud, among other things. You will read about a young man who was pepper-sprayed at this facility multiple times a day, every day, for the nine months he was there.

This blog shares with its readers comments from some of the major players of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS). It also contains a letter from Tranquility Bay's Director, Jay Kay, who said: "In order to alleviate any more rumors we felt it was time to notify everyone what is happening with Tranquility Bay. We have had a great 10 years and our staff has been tremendous. We could not have accomplished anything without your support and dedication ..." You can read the letter in full below.

While Kay works hard to keep parents believing their programs are helping their children, more plaintiffs are joining in the lawsuit that was filed by the Turley Law Firm in August 2006. Just recently a Motion was filed to Amend the Complaint, adding another 60 some plaintiffs for a total of 133.



Youth who attended WWASPS' Tranqulity Bay Academy in Jamaica and their parents have been voicing concerns for years.

One young man, Kerry Layne Brown, was a victim of serious abuse there. He suffered at the hands of Jay Kay and Randall Hinton.

Jay Kay, son of Ken Kay and Director of Tranquility Bay, said the following on national television (Primetime, Diane Sawyer) about the children in his care:

"Do I have pepper spray? You bet I do! And I haven't had to use it in 5½ to 6 months." Jay Kay admits to being a college dropout who ran a gas station convenience store before joining the "business" of the for-profit children's programs. He also said, "if I have kids, and they start giving me a problem, well they are going straight in the programme. If I had to, I'd pull the trigger without hesitation." (Aitkenhead 2003)

His father, Ken Kay told the Denver Rocky Mountain news in an interview before he rejoined Teen Help as Vice President, and WWASPS as president:

"These people are basically a bunch of untrained people who work for this organization. So they don't have credentials of any kind. We could be leading these kids to long-term problems that we don't have a clue about because we're not going about it in the proper way. How in the hell can you call yourself a behavior modification program -- and that's one of the ways it's marketed -- when nobody has the expertise to determine: Is this good, is this bad?"

Randall Hinton agreed to an interview which was videotaped. He laughed as he described the abuse he inflicted on Layne. He talked about how he and Jay Kay pepper-sprayed Layne multiple times a day, every day, for nine months. He didn't know that just a few short years later, in the prime of his life, Layne would be found by his mother, dead in his bed, a death believed to have been a direct result of the abuse he endured at the hands of Jay Kay and Randall Hinton at Tranquility Bay.

A documentary about Tranquility Bay aired Europe. The narator said: "The man who tortured Layne was Randall Hinton. The following is an account of what Hinton said in an interview with reporters:"

“Violence … as in violent kids? Violent staff? Violent programs? Ah, ya." ... he was pepper-sprayed by myself and by Jay Kay. I think we were the only ones who could actually pepper-spray students. I think I can remember Kerry Layne being pepper-sprayed more than once in a day. I know he was pepper-sprayed more than two times in a day. I don’t think it would have been more than three times.”

“... And from somebody on the outside looking in I would say it was abusive. For somebody that stayed with him 24/7 I would say I received as much abuse as he did as a staff. But that’s what we’re getting paid to do.”

“Restraints could be used - mechanical devices could be used - pepper-spray could be used to gain control of your child. It’s just a job that, that helps people. Instead of the pizza coming to you we’ll come and pick the pizza up and take it and let it get cook for a while, in a sense. Until it’s ready to come home and then you get a brand new hot pizza.”

And then there's the president of WWASPS, Robert Lichfield, who said it was "baptism by fire." Lichfield has no formal qualifications in education or child psychology and didn't graduate from college. On the job, he said, "you learn real fast, just as a [physician's assistant] learns doctoring skills by working with doctors." Today, Lichfield is one of the largest contributor to the Mitt Romney campaign.

The effects on Layne's life were devastating. His life was never the same, nor could anyone expect it could be. This was only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the forms of abuse this child endured are unimaginable by most. No human being should ever have to endure such abuse.

Sadly, Layne could never get his life back on track after he returned from Tranquility Bay. Layne was a 4.0 student and a star athlete. He was a strong and healthy young man. Layne was very close to his family and was devastated when his parents divorced. As a result he turned to drugs, which frightened his mother. Wanting to nip it in the bud, so-to-speak, she decided to seek help. She was sold a wonderful program on an island in the Pacific where her son would scuba dive and snorkel in the warm ocean waters and where he would get a great education.

It was everything but wonderful. Layne was never allowed to go to the beach, let alone go scuba diving or snorkeling. The program was harsh and cruel. Every day was miserable, there was no reprieve. His mother was sold nothing but lies. She was never told once he was locked behind closed doors he would be abused by those who she trusted to care for him.

Not only did they break Layne physically but they broke his spirit. When he came home he was never the same. He had to be medicated for his severe post traumatic stress disorder. The medication is what is believed to have killed her son, to cause his heart to enlarge and to fail - medication that he would never have had to take if he had not been abused by Jay Kay and Randall Hinton.

Layne died on June 6, 2006. Ironically on June 7, 2006, Carter Lynn hung himself from the rafters of his home. Both boys had been interviewed and featured in Joanne Greene's Miami New Times article Tough Love.

I have become very close to Layne's mother, Terry Cameron, who has suffered the greatest pain a mother can suffer - the loss of her only child. She has never so much as received an apology or acknowledgment from WWASPS that they made a mistake. Instead, they deny all allegations of abuse. As they do in all other cases, whether they admit to it on video or not.

No comments: