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“Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” by Zack Bonnie

 “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Lily Tomlin

Let Me Be

art by Jonathan Weiner, San Francisco, CA 2015

Accented with unique and relevant art by Jonathan Weiner of San Francisco, CA,”Dead Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir“, by Zack Bonnie, reveals with precision the mind bending abuse enacted inside of the youth reform industry. “The Cult That Spawned the Tough-Love Teen Industry”, by Mother Jones, explains the birth of this industry and provides the following graph.  CEDU had roots in Synanon and began in 1967.

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It was indeed an industry of profit as parents were indoctrinated with the belief that any slightly “off” behavior by their teenager was a sign of serious problems, resulting in parents not only giving away their children with the belief they were helping them, but additionally being swindled out of millions of dollars.

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” opens with Bonnie taking a ski trip with his father. Subsequent events find a fourteen-year-old Bonnie checked into a youth reform facility in Idaho. He is tricked, and left there against his will. Thus begins the enactment of Bonnie’s mental shattering. Overnight, he joins the ranks of the large number of throwaway youth in the eighties, who eventually were labeled “Generation X“.

With every phone call monitored and Bonnie’s parents receiving false reports of his progress, he becomes trapped in an intricately woven scheme of abuse.  He has no means of escape.  He is unable to relay his alarming conditions to anyone.  Forced through bizarre, psychological techniques to become emotionally naked, Bonnie is often left confused about what is real in his mind.  The children are left unsure of what a right answer to staff questions should be.  They are love bombed, then verbally abused, with severely psychotic mind control rituals. The CEDU facilitators often use the children’s personal family dynamics to manipulate them.

“To not share would be to betray them and the confidences that they shared.  I said the most innermost things that made my voice tremble to admit, bringing an ancient anger and self-hatred to the surface.  It wasn’t just the situation; it was where it was taking me, inside myself.

I’m useless.”

Who used to say that to you?” Keith’s soft voice back at me.

My father.”

Your father called you useless?”

Yeah.

Had he really? Yes, he had.

Say it again. ‘My father said I’m useless.’ Good. It hurt you? Yeah. You can say that again, that’s riiiigth.”

Tess and Keith repeated what we said a lot. Just about every time a kid in my group said something, Jasper, Tess, or Keith was there to repeat it. This is how we always seemed to get roped into going deeper within ourselves.

Rituals involve teenagers verbally confronting themselves and each other.  Every detail of their life is invited to be shared as their overseeing handlers note them to use against the children later.  Rounded into groups, they are put through almost daily, mind bending sessions of unimaginable attacks as staff strategically controls the children into turning on one another.

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art by Jonathan Weiner, San Francisco, CA 2015

Zack describes session after session, as every part of the children’s emotions are controlled and manipulated.

Bianca, what do you remember about your mom? She used to have a name for you, too, didn’t she?”

I guess so.” Bianca Taylor picked up her cue from Tess.

Yeah. What was her favorite nickname for that beautiful little tyke? Can you remember for me?

She used to call me Rainbow...” Bianca started crying. I wanted to start crying from watching Bianca, who I’d never really even talked to. Seeing raw sadness like that felt like a punch to the solar plexus.

Toughen up.

The berating of kids is a carefully crafted tool.  Broken down into nothing, with their self-image lost and lacking any emotional worth, the children become easier for the staff to manipulate.  Using every piece of their fragile lives, the staff takes as many opportunities as possible to verbally abuse the children.

I can’t hear you, Bianca. A spoiled little bitch? Spoiled little bitch. LITTLE BITCH! Why did he call you that? That’s right, let me hear you.”

Go for it, Wally…GET IT OUT, PEOPLE. That’s RIGHT!”

A SLUT! Who said that to little Daphne? You really let that little girl down, didn’t you?

Yeah? When? After the abortion? Say that again, Narissa – you’ve got to stop being that girl with the reputation? Look at her!

Here’s some tissues, Bianca. Let it go.”

Catch terms such as “bans“, when children are forbidden to speak to one another, and “bad rapping“, children saying bad things about each other, are among a plethora of rituals used to manipulate the minds of vulnerable teenagers.  Meanwhile, the children are allowed to smoke cigarettes and other self-harming behaviors, geared to feed into their anxiety, which grows, the longer they are forced to remain inside of the program.

Bonnie’s writing style allows his reader to easily flow between what he is forced to witness happening to other children and the silent thoughts he is disallowed to ever let leave his lips lest there be intense punishment.  The children are trained to adhere to a system filled with mistrust and expected betrayal of one another.  They are strip searched upon admittance to the program.  They are heavily worked.  They are humiliated in front of one another.

Yet, even trapped inside such a sordid system of complicated tier goals, systematic punishments, humiliation and anger, Bonnie’s resilience becomes his counter weight as he journals.

“Guess what I went through my truth prophet August 9 & 10 and I found out that I basically I was a dick at home. I have been mulling it over in my mind and I know the point of raps and prophets.  Just to make you cry a lot so naturally being the way I am I didn’t cry. – Author journal entry, 11 August 1988 (one month at RMA)”

Through this writing, Bonnie brilliantly flows between descriptive enactment of the program and his attempt to retain a critical thinking mind.  Bonnie takes his reader’s hand and pulls them directly into the center of his deeply intense experiences.

Bonnie navigates the CEDU system until he can no longer withstand the thin line between the reality in his mind and the constant psychological belittlement he daily endures.  One day Bonnie decides to go on the run.  Will he make it out?

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” reveals the sadistic truth of the youth reform’s use of mental and physical abuse to control children.  Never has a book had an impact on my own teenage memories since I was a young person reading “Run, Baby, Run” by Nicky Cruz. The detail through which Bonnie brings his story to life is exceptionally mapped out.

Dead, Insane or In Jail: A CEDU Memoir” is guaranteed to make you intensely feel. You will be outraged. You will ask why and how a human being can do such things to children. You will laugh, and you will cry. You will cheer for the incredible strength and courage Zack journeys into as he brings his teenage memories to life on the pages of this exceptional book.

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Zack Bonnie

Zack Bonnie is in the process of re-launching his website, complete with an audio-book of  DEAD, INSANE OR IN JAIL: A CEDU MEMOIR, which is available in paperback and e-book. Additionally, he is beginning the publishing submission process for the sequel, entitled: DIJ: OVERWRITTEN.   All of Zack’s work can be explored at his WEBSITE.

To subscribe and stay informed as Zack continues developing his literature, please sign up for his NEWSLETTER.  You may also follow Zack on Facebook and Twitter.

Personal Note: Sometimes a book is so well written, it sinks into the skin of a trauma survivor like me, who found incredible familiarity in the words I read.  This author touched my heart deeply when I met him. The ache in his eyes was familiar. The strength was admirable. The energy was filled with the passion for advocacy. So, dear Zack, please forgive my delay in this long overdue review of your book. I truly wanted to give you the honor you so rightly deserve. Love, Vennie Kocsis  

Streams Of Consciousness | 6.25.15

I am here weightless. Ear tuned to every sound. The fireworks are starting. A week filled with the explosions of war. I despise the celebration of generations who’ve been traumatized by genocide. Headphones. I’m trying to stabilize.

Can I float off away from this place yet? Work to do, but goddamn, I’m tired. Inside. Down in the caves where the seaweed waves in water. She, there, that siren; she is tired inside her liquid soul.

Outside, my body pushes. My face smiles, forced because maybe if I push at it fiercely it turns into the real real. The sounds of fans whirring above me. It’s heated evenings with the shades pulled up to catch the breezes.

Life moves on. Can’t do shit to change that except to feel it all. Face forward. Eyes on the prize, girl, eyes on the prize. Actualize. My destiny has arrived.

Which looks like….

A settled sunset in a camp chair around a beach bonfire,

A triumphant glow in the eyes of a child who has escaped the pain and healed,

A human holding accountability softly in their palms saying, “I fucked this up. I deserve to carry this, not you.”

An acceptance,
A sag of the shoulders and
A rest before the next climb.

They say don’t expect too much from people. It gives way to disappointment. I say that goes along with all the other ways a victim is left to carry the blame. No. The shame belongs solely to the asshole who throws away lives without a care. Don’t blame us.

Here is YOUR Diagnoses:

Apathy, Chronic
Envy, Unresolved
Greed, Chronic Satiation, Level OCD
Selfishness, Harmful Ideation

Everything with you motherfuckers is about money. It temporarily numbs the pain like drugs, and when that plug is pulled, what’s left but the abscess to drain endless,

Your chosen mental madness,
Your fucking sadness,
The voices in your head
Telling you that you ain’t shit;
I know all about it.
I used to be a pro
At telling myself no,
Instead of attending
To my precious soul.

Thinking about it makes my stomach sick. I’d rather live a thousand lives of loneliness than ever give in to anyone again.

I say yes to this right here; the silence; the peace; the ability to freely be me. And fuck the gurus and the controllers, the betrayals and the disloyal. It’s a journey of suffering embraced like a blanket and the shit ain’t mine this time. I get to leave it all behind.

So, I am weightless on this bed. Thinking about communion style wafers of white chocolate and laughter that fled at the sight of action and accountability, because standing on your own two feet ain’t never been a strength when you care more about Vera Wang than your own ability to become better and change.

Lying and manipulation is the crutch of your existence,

And me? I’m just weightless. I’m just feeling, dealing and healing. Because that’s what I do. Live my truth. Even if the self hating critics keep the rest of you in prison, I have escaped to never, ever return to that gate even if it grows flowers;

Unless I have a mallet
To knock down the malice.

The Death of Ms. Hagley

I thought I’d feel reprieve;
some kind of soul relief
to find out she died,
crucified by slow breaths;
a painful death,

almost as scarring as
the beatings she left
on my extremities,
days in school while
everyone stared at me.

What does this mean
that I feel anger
she got to leave
before she stood and
faced accountability?

They’re all escaping,
age taking them down
minute by minute,
ticking time bombs,
their lips pursed with
the silence they’ve rehearsed.

Want to make a confession
before you try to enter
your imaginary heaven?

Did no wrong so
you’ve held on
to the denial,
shame,
the victim blame with
wings transparent
if not invisible as
they don’t exist
when you are
birthed from evil.

Into the dark matter sink,
buried in the
absence of light.

You go become midnight,
thick and airless,
no lungs or blood cells;
nothingness;
that be your hell.

I try to feel some
kind of way but I’m
filled with memories,
flat and frayed.

I’ll leave behind
written manifestos
of what you all did and
never confessed to.

With my head held high,
I will always tell the truth.
Now I can speak your name.
So the world can truly know you.

This be my sadistic story;
the one I deserve to scream
while the blaming arrives asking
what about her family?

I reply
what about me?

v.k poetry

“Cult Child” Amazon Review – Heartbreaking

By a. estrada on April 14, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I don’t know how else to say it The book will break your heart. It will make you cry. It will make you mad. And somehow, little Sila still brought a smile to my face, even an out loud laugh, or two!
The book is written beautifully, despite the sadness. I love how the story was told through the child’s eyes. It makes it easier to connect with the her in this way. To feel, see what she is feeling and seeing. More personal. I loved it. Anxious to know what happens after Alaska…
Visit the link below to purchase Cult Child and read more reviews: