Mimesis Law
11 August 2020

Torture For Their Own Good: It’s Only Okay When The Government Does It

October 7, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Some bizarre news from Texas involved ten people arrested for “medieval and barbaric” treatment of individuals they were holding against their will. Was it some secret torture ring? Some weird sex thing like in Eyes Wide Shut? Drug cartels up to no good?

Not quite. It was substance abuse treatment:

Ten men have been arrested in Irving and Fort Worth after officers were led to a supposed drug and alcohol rehab facility where at least two people said they were being held against their will.

According to Fort Worth police, victims inside the Fort Worth facility were often beaten, tied to chairs and fed one package of Ramen noodles a day.

Police say “good” patients were allowed five minutes to eat beans, rice and potatoes one day a week. Beds in the facility were made of two-by-fours.

“The conditions inside of the facilities and the treatment of the ‘patients’ can only be described as medieval and barbaric,” read a Fort Worth Police Department statement.

It sounds awful when you call it medieval and barbaric, but it doesn’t seem all that bad if you really think about it. Rehab facilities aren’t exactly places where many of the people in them want to be. There were multiple facilities in different towns in this case, and that they can only say at least two of them were being held against their will is pretty remarkable. I’d expect most rehab facilities have that many or more people who want to leave but can’t, though it’s probably family members or the courts continuing to coerce their presence.

Being beaten, tied to chairs, and underfed, on the other had, genuinely does create some cause for concern, and sleeping on two-by-fours probably sucks. The problem, though, is that it’s being reported as medieval and barbaric when, last I checked, Texas had prisons and jails. When the state does it to people under the guise of it being for their own good, we don’t blink an eye. When ten individuals use extreme measures to address addiction, they get arrested and it’s big news.

When’s the last time the Dallas Morning News called the local jails and prisons medieval and barbaric? Many inmates across the country might love the option of going to a sketchy rehab facility instead of being held by the state. Beatings aren’t that uncommon in jail, and they come not just from the guards but from the other inmates. Plus, inmates aren’t tied to chairs, but they’re shackled. Two-by-four beds might seem warm and inviting compared to metal or concrete slabs, and I’d take one package of Ramen over two square meals of Sheriff Joe’s green bologna any day.

Still, the rehab facility sounds both awful and exceedingly strange:

When police went to investigate, they found 37 men inside a rundown house, Irving police spokesman James McLellan said. There was an Alcoholics Anonymous sign in Spanish posted inside.

It probably takes a lot more than an AA sign to justify holding a bunch of people in close quarters with poor conditions. If the sign and the claim it was a rehab facility were just an attempt to cover up just kidnapping a bunch of people for some other reason, it’s a pretty amusingly incompetent ruse. It certainly wouldn’t be the stupidest cover up police have seen, though. They clearly thought that was the case:

Detectives did not say what the goal of the operation was — or who was behind it. The number of people in the house led police to wonder whether the facility was being used as a front for human trafficking, or Medicaid fraud, or a safe house for people who had entered the country illegally, McLellan said.

“This place isn’t just some well-intended organization for people who don’t otherwise have the means to be in rehab,” he said. “I have a hard time believing the people running these places had good intentions.”

It’s sort of funny that authorities suspect foul play. After all, they should know better than anyone that intentions and actions don’t always match up. They probably wouldn’t doubt the intentions of a fellow officer who arrested someone for having a tiny bit of a leafy green substance in their pocket. It’s for their own good, right? In fact, they demonstrated a willingness to do something awful to some of the victims in this case:

Some of the men were interviewed and released, he said. At least 11 were brought to the jail and interviewed. Six others who were interviewed were subject to immigration holds and detained. It was unclear whether they would face deportation.

Due to their immigration status, these poor victims were finally freed only to be kidnapped again and held someplace that might be worse than rehab. And yet the officers who didn’t become the victims’ new kidnappers surely aren’t doubting the intentions of those who did.

There are lots of crazy things about the story, and the supposed rehab facilities would obviously be a front for something totally nefarious if it weren’t for this:

Fort Worth police Sgt. Marc Povero told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that family members had taken the people to the Fort Worth facility for drug or alcohol rehab.

And this:

Police also went to a third home, on North Beach Street in Fort Worth, where nine patients were staying, though none said they were being held against their will, Povero said.

And this:

But still others told police that the treatment they received at the facility had worked for them, McLellan said.

“In one case there was a person who said they tried some other things that didn’t work,” he said, but the treatment there did. “There was a wide range of viewpoints from the people who were there.”

At first, it seems beyond weird that family members would drop off their loved ones at such an awful place. It’s even weirder that some people weren’t there against their will and that the dreadful treatment actually worked for others.

If you think about it, though, that too is pretty much the same with prisons and jails. The number of people who think it’ll help getting someone they care about involved in the criminal justice system is amazing. The “that’ll scare ‘em straight” mentality is pretty common, unfortunately. So are people who don’t mind jail and those who are improved by horrible treatment and the threat of more horrible treatment.

Comparing that rehab facility to jail or prison doesn’t justify what they were doing. It should make you doubt what our jails and prisons are doing instead. The lesson we should take away here is that we should reexamine our views when the difference between a house full of kidnapping victims that makes the news and something we all accept as part of our society is who’s doing the kidnapping. It’s easy to see a problem with doing bad things to someone for their own good when the people being helped are suffering in a dilapidated shack. It’s harder when it’s the government doing it.

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  • bacchys
    7 October 2016 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Sometimes the inmates in our jails are tied to chairs and tortured. Sometimes they die as a result.