I know "shocking" gets tossed around with too much frequency these days. It's an internet staple and an invitation to click-bait. However, it's difficult to find a better word to describe the story that 10 people were arrested yesterday in connection with running sham drug rehabilitation houses in Irving and Fort Worth, Texas.
Initial charges against the men include at least 2 counts of kidnapping. The details behind this story are difficult to wrap your mind around. In essence, this group of 10 people were running torture factories, complete with beatings and starvation rations in the name of helping people with drug problems. Complicating matters is that the victims reportedly speak little to no English.
Fake Rehab Facilities in Irving and Fort Worth
While many of the details for this story are still coming in, what we know is nothing short of horrific. In the Irving house alone, a house that appears to be little more than 1000 square feet, the police liberated 37 "patients," apparently drug addicts who were dropped off by family members unable to afford traditional drug rehabilitation centers. To put that into perspective, that's just over 27 square feet per person, or an area about 3'x 9', just enough room to lie down. By comparison, the standard minimum amount of space for prisoners is 70 square feet. At the Fort Worth house, another 11 people were discovered in similarly dire circumstances.
Reports also indicate that the "patients" were subject to beatings, restraints, and denied proper food. Their sole means of sustenance was a single package of ramen noodles each day. A quick search shows that such a package of noodles only contains 188 calories. The recommended daily caloric intake for an adult is 2,000 calories, which means that the people who were supposed to be getting drug treatment were getting less than 10% of the calories they need. There are reports that those who behaved were given 5 minutes per week to gorge themselves on beans and rice. However you slice it, these people were being starved.
To maintain discipline, the accused reportedly resorted to beatings, tying up "patients" with plastic cords, and threatening to kill them if they attempted to escape. Starved, beaten, and with no way out sounds more like a torture camp that we'd expect to find in someplace halfway around the world and not right her in our own back yard.
Also concerning is that it doesn't appear that any actual medical personnel were around during the detox process. For many drugs detoxing without medical assistance can prove fatal.
What the Irving/Fort Worth Kidnapping/Fake Rehab Center Story Means
In most articles this would be the point where I would discuss premises liability, homeowners insurance, and getting victims compensation. I can't really do that in this case, because I doubt that people who would kidnap and torture drug addicts at the request of their family members are up-to-date on their homeowners insurance. The reason for discussing the plight of these people is because they represent a nexus of people who get forgotten in a community.
I know that people have very little sympathy for drug addicts, but there is nothing a person can do that can warrant what these folks had to endure. In Texas, we treat people on death row, people who have committed truly abominable acts, better than these people were treated.
It also caught my eye that the victims spoke little to no English. Regardless of your feelings about immigration, the issue is so politicized that people pay little to no attention to those who live in the shadows of our society. While it in no way compares to this situation, as the husband of an immigrant, I have seen for myself the degree to which immigrant communities will prey on more recently arrived immigrants.
This isn't a criticism of any particular group of people, because it doesn't matter what part of the globe immigrants come from, those who have been in the country longer will always know more about how our society works than those who are more recently arrived. Granted, this knowledge gap doesn't usually manifest itself in ways as horrific as this, but it is difficult to imagine that someone who knows how our addiction treatment system works would ever send a family member to such a place.
Supporting this interpretation is the fact that none of the residents in the respective communities thought that their was anything odd going on in the house, because each one had an Alcoholics Anonymous sign out front. Just as these weren't legitimate drug treatment centers, it is very unlikely that either place has any affiliation with Alcoholics Anonymous. Having been to an AA meeting to support a friend, it would be rather strange for Alcoholics Anonymous to have dedicated buildings that operate at all hours of the day.
It's also important to note that Alcoholics Anonymous doesn't charge family members for their services. Of course, this is all common knowledge if you speak English and grew up in the United States, but for recent immigrant communities, navigating our social services network can be alien and complicated. It is likely this knowledge gap that these kidnappers were able to exploit.
When you combine these two features, drug addiction and people who speak little English, you have a recipe for victimization. The only reason these houses of horror came to light was because neighbors reported one of the frantic "patients" who had escaped from the house in Irving and was running through the streets in the nearby neighborhood, desperately trying to get away from his tormentors.
While my work at Grossman Law Offices means that I see horrific and harrowing events in people's lives every single day, those are much easier to wrap my mind around because they're general the result of careless behavior. It's certainly difficult that so many of the people we represent are at a great disadvantage compared to those who have injured them, but at the end of the day their injuries are due to carelessness and negligence, not a torture scheme intentionally inflicted upon them depraved individuals living in our community.
There's a temptation to call for something to be done to prevent something like this from happening again. The question then becomes what would we do? Drug treatment facilities already have to be licensed. The police shut this operation down as soon as they found out about it. While police are investigating possible insurance and Medicaid fraud, it is not certain that such connections exist. In the end it may just be 10 truly depraved people who decided that they would torture drugs addicts for whatever money families were willing to pay to help the addicts get better.
The best outcome that we can hope for in this case is that the victims get real treatment for their addictions and that the 10 accused are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. With vigilance and proper outreach, hopefully we'll never see another situation like this arise in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.