Glen Mills graduates: Don’t give up on us

  • Speaking out: Alvone Maybury

    Speaking out: Alvone Maybury

  • Speaking out: Ezra Ararat

    Speaking out: Ezra Ararat

Two men who suffered abuse as teenagers at a grim reform school in the United States have urged Bermuda not to give up on its troubled young people and to care for at-risk children closer to home.

Alvone Maybury, 33, and Ezra Ararat, 34, told their stories anonymously to The Royal Gazette earlier this year after it was reported that young boys from Bermuda were sent to Glen Mills Schools in Pennsylvania for more than 35 years.

The two agreed to be identified in the wake of the Who Cares? investigation into how Bermuda’s at-risk and vulnerable children are treated.

They joined would-be boxer Tyler Christopher, 23, who told his story on Monday at the launch of the weeklong series.

Mr Ararat said he hoped Bermuda would now look at alternatives to overseas care for children with behaviour problems.

He added: “A better alternative is just to deal with the problem here, stop giving up on the youth.

“Just understand you are dealing with children. It’s rough coming up. They are going to make mistakes. Just don’t give up on them because they are probably a little ruder than the other children. Just keep working with them.”

Mr Maybury, who appears in the YouTube series Hustlerz Paradise, said he was “kind of stunned” that the abuse suffered by some children in the Department of Child and Family Services psychoeducational programme had at last come to light.

He suggested the country’s leaders should consider if a local treatment centre could be created to care for troubled teens, which would allow them to see loved ones on a regular basis.

Mr Maybury said: “We have got all these islands in Bermuda. Why don’t we find one of those islands and use some of the buildings there? Put people there, take them on a boat.”

He added: “Everybody always wants to be about punishment. It’s not always about punishment. Help people get better. Help them to get jobs. Help them to learn a trade or get a GED.”

Glen Mills, the oldest reform school in the United States, was shut in April for abuse and mistreatment of children.

The institution is the subject of several inquiries by US authorities, as well as lawsuits from former pupils.

The DCFS has not revealed how many boys were sent to the school but has said the last child went in 2017.

But children are still sent to other behavioural schools and “treatment centres” in the US as part of the psychoeducational programme.

Mr Ararat was placed in care, aged 13, after he stabbed another boy in a fight at the bus terminal.

He said: “I was was too young to get charged, so they sent me to the boys’ home. My momma got upset. She was going through a lot of hard times; she had five children. It was tough for her.”

He added that he ran away a lot from the boys’ home and was sent to Glen Mills at 15 after a chemical imbalance in his brain was diagnosed.

Mr Ararat said: “They said they were going to send me away or I’d get locked up and go to Co-Ed.

“I wanted to go to jail. I’m thinking I’m safe in Bermuda. But they must have been painting this pretty story to my momma. Everybody painted this as best to me.”

At Glen Mills, Mr Ararat claimed he heard other children being raped at night by other pupils, although it did not happen to him. But he alleged he suffered violence at the hands of staff and other pupils.

He said: “All that was done to me was being abused, hurt, humiliated — and it broke my spirit. Glen Mills has been the worst experience of my life.”

Mr Ararat was shot a few years ago in St David’s and has not had a permanent job since, although he does landscaping and handyman jobs.

He said: “I suffer from PTSD. I don’t trust people. I can’t handle being around people for too long. I still face challenges.”

Mr Ararat added that he wanted to be a productive member of society but needed help, which was not available. He said: “I just try to fix myself.”

Mr Maybury said he was taken into care aged 12 after he took a knife into Victor Scott Primary School in Pembroke and threatened another boy.

His mother was very ill at the time and he lived at different times at her home, his godmother’s home and his father’s house.

Mr Maybury said: “I remember going to some meeting at a desk with people and they was telling me ‘we are giving you one more chance, if you get in any trouble, you are going to be going to the boys’ home or whatever’.

“And I ended up getting sent to exactly the place they said I would go.”

He lived at Observatory Cottage but, aged 14, it was decided by the department he would benefit from time at a school abroad.

Mr Maybury added the decision was probably taken because he “was too much for them. Going AWOL. I just did what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to listen to nobody.”

He said he was given psychological assessments before he left and it was recommended he take Ritalin, a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but he refused.

Mr Maybury went to a treatment centre in Atlanta and was allowed to call his mother every day.

He said: “She passed away when I was 14. They had brought me back from the place in Atlanta to be back with her because they knew her time was coming.”

He went to a school in Tennessee after his mother’s death, and lived with his much older sister in New Jersey for a time.

But Mr Maybury, whose father died when he was 16, said he became homesick and his sister, who has since also died, contacted the DCFS to discuss his return to the island.

He claimed a male social worker was sent to collect him and escort him back to Bermuda — but that it was a “set-up”.

Mr Maybury said: “I met them at the airport in New Jersey. The social worker said we was going to catch the plane from New Jersey, then spend the night at a hotel and leave in the morning to go back to Bermuda.

“At Philadelphia, a truck came and picked us up. They claimed the people who picked us up were ... going to take us to go get some pizzas and drinks.”

But the truck delivered Mr Maybury to Glen Mills, a borstal set in 1,800 acres of land, which he had been warned about by an older Bermudian boy who had also been in care.

Mr Maybury said: “Every placement I’ve been to, it’s always got to a long road, a dark road with just trees.

“So when we hit this long road and it was a straight stretch of road, no lights, just trees, I turned towards him and asked him, ‘are you setting me up?’. And he never said nothing to me.”

Mr Maybury added pupils were made to give confrontational “feedback” to one another during group sessions — highlighted by other Glen Mills pupils in a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer in February this year.

He said boys were encouraged to get so angry they would scream at each other and he alleged students were made to scrub shower cubicles with a toothbrush.

Mr Maybury added: “I’m like, ‘what is this?’. These people claim to send me here to get an education, so basically I was rebellious after that.

“I wasn’t going to change. I felt like ‘well, if they really think they are going to change me and break me, it’s not going to happen’.

“But thinking about it now ... that place could have messed me up if I wasn’t strong.

“I could have came back and been stressed out about everything I went through and went on drugs, hard drugs. Luckily, I never turned to drugs.”

Many of the boys sent to Glen Mills from elsewhere in the United States had criminal records, unlike the Bermudian children.

Mr Maybury said: “I asked a guy one time ‘what are you here for?’ He said ‘I’m here for shooting somebody in the head’, so I thought ‘whatever’, but it was true.”

Mr Maybury left Glen Mills after six months and went to George Junior Republic, an all-boys’ school, near Pittsburgh.

He gained brief notoriety in 2010 as the Facebook fugitive after he returned to Bermuda after he bragged on social media about an escape from police custody.

He was later jailed for shooting at rivals from the Parkside gang and conspiracy to shoot gangster Raymond “Yankee” Rawlins and is now out on parole until 2026.

Mr Maybury said he was a changed man, with a steady job, a promising acting career and a small business selling books on black history.

But he insisted his turnaround was not down to the DCFS or the psychoeducational programme.

He said: “I changed because I wanted to change. No classes made me change, no jail broke me or overseas. It’s because I’m just tired. I have been through it all and I want to do different now.”

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Published Dec 13, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 13, 2019 at 8:01 am)

Glen Mills graduates: Don’t give up on us

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