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Kids of New Jersey

Cult Environment Alleged
The approach of Kids of New Jersey rehabilitation center head Miller Newton was not, according to prosecuting attorney Philip Elberg, about “tough love” but about “destroying families as they existed and creating a new family with Miller Newton as the father and Ruth Ann Newton as the mother.” [csr 2.3 2003]

Dozens of teenagers with behavior problems who went through the center — which has now been closed following suits for Medicaid over-billing — have described the experience as a living hell. Elberg, who won a $4.5 million settlement for one of the teenagers in 1999, alleges now that Newton, a 63-year-old rehabilitation guru, violated client Lulu Corter’s civil rights, provided treatment that deviated from standard care, and caused her emotional, physical, and psychological damage. A Utah prosecutor called the program Newton operated in his state “a sort of private jail, using techniques such as torture.” [csr 2.3 2003]

Witnesses have supported the allegation that Lulu, who entered the facility with an eating disorder and compulsive behavior, was “brainwashed.” They said that Miller routinely required patients to shun their families and families to shun children who left the program before graduating. Lulu, whose parents signed her into the program in 1984, when she was 13, and who ran from it in 1997, said that Newton discouraged her and her mother from attending her older sister’s wedding because the sister had left the program too soon.[csr 2.3 2003]

Former patients who took the stand spoke of the center’s rules and regulations. Initially, they had to sit ramrod straight for 12 hours of group therapy daily. They were prohibited from writing, making telephone calls, or going to the bathroom alone. Graduates were coerced to remain as staff members. Patients were returned to the earliest, harsh stage of treatment for the slightest infraction.[csr 2.3 2003]

Lulu said that she, like others, made up stories during therapy — saying she had sex with a dog and that her uncle had molested her — in order to advance toward release through the stages of the program without falling back. Staff psychiatrists say in their depositions that they rarely saw patients. Attorney Elberg says Newton “rented licenses” and that peer counselors used rubber stamps to sign psychiatrists’ names to reports in order to collect private and Medicaid insurance.[csr 2.3 2003]

Newton has a 1981 Ph.D. in public administration and urban anthropology from The Union Institute, in Cincinnati, which calls itself an “alternative learner-directed” school without classes or other attendance requirements. His resume says his degree is in “medical anthropology” or “clinical anthropology,” and that he is a “board certified . . . medical psychotherapist,” which he says is a “peer certification.”[csr 2.3 2003]

Elberg states that he decided not to use the term “cult” for Newton’s organization “because that could have turned the trial into one about the meaning of a cult, rather than about this girl who was yanked out of school and forced to go through what she went through.” (Tim O’Brien, New Jersey Law Journal, Internet, 7/7/03) [csr 2.3 2003]

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