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The Truth About Diamond Ranch Academy – Survivors Speak Out

The Truth About Diamond Ranch Academy – Survivors Speak Out

The statements that follow are from many hours of interviews with former residents of DRA. VIOLATIONS OF PATIENT’S RIGHTS Many former Diamond...

The statements that follow are from many hours of interviews with former residents of DRA.


Many former Diamond Ranch Academy students reported that they experienced patient rights violations. In addition to having no access to advocacy contact information, the majority reported that their mail was monitored and their calls were monitored. Furthermore, the majority also reported that their letters or conversations were filtered, restricted, or interrupted by Diamond Ranch Academy.


After a few months I was able to mail my parents, but mail was closely monitored and read, and they ultimately decided if it was sent or not.  If you did anything to expose the ranch for what it really was, you were instantly punished and knocked back down on the level system, promising you an even longer and harder stay at the program.  Same with phone calls.  They were always monitored and you would be instantly cut off if you said anything that could be deemed as ‘manipulative.’

Nick, attended DRA late July 2001 to late June 2002, email dated September 18, 2009


You were able to write your parents but I know they looked through all the letters incoming and outgoing.  And if there was anything they didn’t like they would confiscate the letter and you would be cited. 

Zoe, attended DRA June 1, 2005 to September 15, 2006


They have it (phone calls home) on speaker phone in the room, and the therapist usually just sits there on the computer listening.  And if you say anything he doesn’t like, he’ll end the call.

Matt, attended DRA September 2, 2008 to June 5, 2009


I would try and write home or tell my parents how I felt on the phone but the more I let out the truth the more they hung up or tore up my postcards.  Check this out though this is the most important factor of the program.  If you write your parents your (sic) being abused they rip it up.

Aaron, attended DRA June 23, 2006 to December 23, 2007


The students reported that Diamond Ranch Academy staff considers it “manipulation” for a student to tell their parents the truth about how they are being treated in the program, whether they want to come home, and if they have anything negative to say about the ranch.  Manipulation is punished by a six point citation, which can delay the student from advancing for the week, and can also result in being sent back outside to the homeless section.



Basically, any crying, any negative stuff, that’s just ‘manipulation’.  That is such an overused term there, it’s all manipulation.  It’s the most overused term I’ve ever heard in my life.  Everything’s manipulation.  It’s a six point ticket, which is the equivalent of stealing food.  So if you write a letter that’s perfectly happy, and at the end if you say, ‘well, I got in trouble today and it pisses me off, but I’ve dealt with it,’ just the part where you say it pisses me off, the letter will be ripped up and you will get a six point ticket.  That happened to me actually.  On Thanksgiving, you get (to send) fancy letters with decorations.  I had never tried to send a letter like that before, that was the first time I tried to send a letter where I wanted to tell them the truth and I got in trouble. … I ended up eating outside for the whole week just for the letter…That letter was like ‘well, I’ve learned stuff and so take me home.  I think I’m ready to go home.’

Chris, attended DRA in 2008


When you get out of homeless you get a phone call with your parents to kind of tell them how it is.  And if you tell them that you want to go home or if you try and manipulate them, that’s what they call it, you get in trouble and you go back to homeless.  During the time there, if you just say, ‘I want to go home, this place sucks,” they don’t look fondly on it.  I just cooperated; I just wanted to get out of there…. I was pretty good, I mean, I never tried to manipulate them.  You’ve got to understand, I just wanted to get out of there.  I didn’t want to cause any trouble.  I’m not going to lie, I mean everyone hates it, I mean everyone. 

Matt, attended DRA September 2, 2008, graduated June 5, 2009


They can (tell the truth) on visits.  I sure as h*** did.  I manipulated, told them everything that goes on, everything.  I strategized what to say to them for 2 months, got advice from all the kids that have been there to work around it but the thing is your parents expect it and it just doesn’t work. 

Ryan, attended DRA December 28, 2008 until July 21, 2009


I (could have) told my parents but I never did because I was scared to, I was scared what the consequences might be.  Because some of my fellow students had told me what happened to them when they told their parents what was going on, they were dropped down levels, they were put on probation back in homeless.

Zoe, attended DRA June 1, 2005 to September 15, 2006


The first time that I got to talk to my mom, you get to phone your parents when you complete the homeless part, you get to have a five minute phone call with them.  And so, I remember right before they said, make sure you don’t say anything bad about the place or we will hang up the phone on you.  You have to make sure that you sound happy and if you say anything negative we will hang up the phone on you.  And your phone privileges will be taken away.  I was too scared to every say anything bad.  I was so scared of the way this place worked, so I wasn’t going to try and say anything on the phone.  I was just happy to be able to talk to my mom.  I didn’t want my privileges to be taken away because you are so alone.  You need that half an hour every two weeks to talk to your parents or you just can’t get through the program. 

Brianna, attended DRA March 19, 2007 to December 19, 2007


Students reported that as part of the intake process strip searches were conducted.

I was stripped of all my possessions except for my shoes and coat.  I was told to remove my clothes.  My clothes were then searched and I was made to turn around many times, naked, to make sure I had nothing on me.

Christian, attended DRA

November 17, 2007 to September 26, 2008


I got there when the day was almost over.  They take you to the blue house . . . they gave me clothes and told me to change into them.  So I took the clothes and went to walk back to the bathroom and they said, “no, you can’t go to the bathroom, you have to change right here.”  I told them I wasn’t taking my clothes off in front of them, and they said, “Okay, we can do this the hard way or the easy way.”   And that’s when I gave up and let them tell me what to do. … I stood there naked and humiliated as they made sure I didn’t have anything hidden.  I felt like a criminal.  I felt so dirty and ashamed.  I cannot begin to express the humiliation I felt. 

Brianna, attended DRA March 19, 2007 to December 19, 2007


I was welcomed with a strip search all the way down to my underwear along with a feel up.

Mariam, attended DRA August 2003 to July 2004


The majority of students reported that their activities on the campus are strictly controlled and they are not allowed to move around the campus freely.


OLS is called out of line of sight (of the student’s counselor) and that’s also a six point ticket, which is a really big ticket . . . One time, and this happens a lot, I’d get lost in thought, and when we would walk, I’d turn a corner, and or a split second, I’d be out of line.  I’d get back immediately, but I’d still get a six point site, which is the equivalent of stealing food.  And you could be outside for a whole week, just for that one thing.  Once you get to Manager, which is upper level, you get two minutes out of line of sight, so weekdays when you’re out of school, which I think is like between 10:00 and 3:00 you get three minutes OLS.  You can run errands and help.  … At director level you get 5 minutes OLS. 

Chris, Attended DRA in 2008


You can never just do your own thing here.  You can’t just go off to the pond and sit by yourself.  That’s another thing.  I saw those ponds and I was like, “that will be so nice just being able to sit out there and think.”  That’s not the case.  You can’t just go to the ponds and sit by yourself.  As you go up in the levels, like at Manager you can have I think it’s two minutes of OLS where you can be alone for 2 minutes.  After that you have to run back to the staff member to check in.  At director you can be alone for five, and I think graduate is seven.  But you only get those minutes OLS if you are allowed to do so by staff and if you have a reason to be doing something.

Brianna, attended DRA March 19, 2007 to December 19, 2007






The students who submitted statements and were interviewed reported that DRA presents a different image to prospective and program parents through student tours and website information. Students also reported financial opportunism and misrepresentations to parents by program operators.


The difference between that place on a regular day and a day when an interested parent thinking about sending their kid to Diamond Ranch or a health inspector came to look around was as different as night and day.

Nick, attended DRA late July 2001 to late June 2002, email dated September 18, 2009


The staff of DRA put on a face when parents come to tour the place.  The website is 90% false.  I remember reading on the website because I myself had decided to go there in the end because I did want help and I thought it would be a good place for me.  It said they had things like horseback riding . . . they had one horse there, and ‘Charlie’ was not rideable.

Zoe, attended DRA June 1, 2005 to September 15, 2006


90 percent of what is on that site (DRA website) is a lie.  Ask me anything about it.  It’s most likely a manipulative try to get the parents’ money.

Christian, attended DRA November 17, 2007 to September 26, 2008


There were frequently more mattresses on the floor in the boys’ dorms than there were supposed to be.  When parents or code inspectors would come, we would have to wake up extra early and move the mattresses out of the dorm and hide them.

Aaron, attended DRA June 23, 2006 to December 23, 2007


Students reported that DRA “coaches” parents to not believe their children.  This has been widely regarded as brainwashing, and is discussed in DRA’s parent seminars.


You can’t just tell your parents you want to come home.  They know that.  DRA coaches your parents what to believe and not to believe…

Ryan, attended DRA December 28, 2008 until July 21, 2009


So once you get home visits … your parents are so brainwashed that they’re not going to believe you.  On my first visit as a supervisor, I didn’t say anything.  The only time I ever tried was on my second visit, and I got in really big trouble for that because I told them (my parents) everything and they were still brainwashed.  So when I got back, I was pretty screwed.  I lost a level and a whole bunch of stuff.

Chris, attended DRA in 2008


When I finally got to see my mom (for the first time) I told her how awful it was and how much I wanted to go home.  She told me that they told her I would say that and that I was trying to manipulate her so I could go home and do drugs.  They told her that in no way should she believe me because I’m not ready to go home.

Brianna, attended DRA March 19, 2007 to December 19, 2007


The majority of students also reported that DRA staff uses false pretenses to get students to smile for photographs:


Another tactic they liked to use was tricking us into smiling for photographs to be put online; for example, a staff telling an inappropriate joke that was out of their character, and proceeding to quickly whip out a camera to snap a quick photo.

Nick, attended DRA late July 2001 to late June 2002, email dated September 18, 2009


They try to take pictures when you’re smiling.  So either they do it at the happiest possible moments, like when someone just got an advancement, or they would ask if you would just give us a fake smile.

Chris, attended DRA in 2008


Oh yeah, they make you smile for your pictures.  They say smile, and if you don’t smile you get a cite.  It’s called manipulation, ‘cause some kids won’t smile on purpose. 

Matt, Attended DRA September 2, 2008 to June 5, 2009


The long-lasting impact of Diamond Ranch Academy’s program ranges from students who say the program helped them get off of drugs, to many who report long-lasting negative effects, including panic attacks, post-traumatic stress syndrome, nightmares, flashbacks, trust issues, and diminished self-esteem.


I am now 22 years old and have a nine month old baby.  Since DRA I have become a completely different person.  I’m not fun loving anymore and consider myself almost anti-social.  I have trust issues and am nervous when people touch me.  I get panic attacks and I just plain out find it hard to think about that time in my life.  Sure, I got off of drugs, but at the same time, a detox center could have done the same thing for me, and it would have been cheaper.

Mariam, Attended DRA

August 2003 to July 2004.


(In response to the question: “Is there anything you can say to reassure me Brendan’s ok?  He’s a sensitive, gentle person who suffers from depression and a lot of anxiety”.)  That’s pretty much me, suffering from depression and anxiety.  He’s going to be mentally traumatized.  That’s pretty much what happened in my case.  I was never actually physically restrained.  It’s more the mental shock of it all.  That’s the hardest part of it all.

Chris, attended DRA in 2008



The only additional details I can give you are that the after effects of these programs seem to range from a life long crippling of one’s ability to function in normal society to reoccurring nightmares due to the overwhelming sense of powerless felt in the programs.  One thing I would like to note… I was considered a top student.  I was never a problem.  I never ran away, barely received any citations, was never personally physically restrained (just witnessed), I advanced all my levels on schedule and was never demoted.  No one’s program is completely flawless, but my run is as close as it gets.  I held every job possible there and was constantly used as an example for other students to follow. 

Nick, attended DRA late July 2001 to late June 2002


I was helped somewhat (by DRA’s program) but I realized now after a while of being out what they do.  They are supposed to help you with a ‘real life transition program’ but they pretty well always tell you what to do so when you get back out into the real world you aren’t sure how to make these decisions on your own.  I have found that to be an extreme problem recently for myself. 

Zoe, attended DRA June 1, 2005 to September 15, 2006


At one point in the program, you accept it and come to believe it’s a good thing.  I thought I was doing well, my family was really proud of me, but that never canceled out the fact that I knew it was wrong.  Regardless of what people said, one of my old staff said, she was the one that got mad at me for speaking out like I am, she was like, “well you were always so happy while you were here, you were always smiling and stuff.”  That’s because you have to.  You have to get over the fact that you’re there if you want to get through it.  And you have to make the best of it.  That’s what I did.  I made the best of it and found happiness in the smallest things.  I faked it.  I sucked up to everybody… I was in survival mode.  I would do anything to get out.  I learned how to play the game, I learned how the program worked.  I learned what the staff wanted to hear. … (After leaving DRA) I quickly slipped back into the old me, but even worse.  DRA caused me to have severe anxiety attacks.  To this day I will not sleep at other people’s houses because of the nightmares I have.  I have at least three a month and it’s been over two years.  I wake up some nights and think that I’m in my DRA bunk bed.  I also became very introverted and passive, which is the complete opposite of who I used to be.  I do not have as much respect for myself and I let people push me around.

Brianna, attended DRA March 19, 2007 to December 19, 2007

  1. hope 03. Apr, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

    I got cited for crying and they’d restrain me for no reason. 6000 a month for them to mentally fuck you up.

  2. Kelly 05. Jun, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    Hope, I would love to talk with you regarding Diamond Ranch. We are trying to hold them accountable. Please get in touch with me. You will remain anonymous.


    • Brendan 11. Mar, 2017 at 12:12 am #

      My friend is at the school atm he said its a shit hole and they still do the same shit why is this school not getting sued or law suits being put against them? After this long i would assume someone has tried. I have the money to get an expensive lawyer and put together a law suit this school needs to be shut down or monitored!

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