Raising Intensity

When I was 14 (and 15), I spent 8 months in the non-secure part of a large correctional facility. I was in a building called the “shelter.” I had been told it was a residential mental health care center, but it was the unlocked building on a prison campus. The shelter primarily housed discarded young people who hadn’t committed any crimes. It was bad there. It was a punishment-centered program, and I got punished several times a day for being hard-of-hearing and for experiencing side effects from my medications.

Twenty years later, I continue to experience PTSD symptoms from that placement multiple times every week. Sometimes it comes up in my weekly therapy. A month or so ago, my therapist told me that she thinks there are a few ways in which the Lino shelter is a little better than it was a decade ago, but they still do some really messed up stuff, such as “raising intensity.”

I came home from therapy, talking about how raising intensity is not a way to help anyone. Elysa asked about the practice, and I said, “Oh yeah, that’s when everyone stands in a circle around the accused and screams and swears at them and calls them names. Sometimes staff members even throw furniture. If you get spit on your lips from someone screaming in your face, you’re not allowed to wipe it away.” She was kind of horrified. I suppose that’s a healthier response than my learned indifference.

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