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The Program: Cons, Cults and Kidnapping 2024 / Victims of abuse reclaim their stories in this horrifying but illuminating documentary about the troubled teen industry

7.3

The Program starts small and intimate, with director Katherine Kubler sharing the story of how she got into a school that turned out to be, in everything but name, a prison. In Ivy Ridge, Kubler and her peers were physically assaulted and subjected to cult-like practices, with most of the kids leaving the institution worse off than better. But soon the diaristic approach gives way to a complex and well-researched investigation of what is known as the “troubled teen industry.” As it turns out, there are plenty of other institutions like Ivy Ridge that scam desperate parents into spending thousands of dollars to incarcerate their kids and hand them over to faux educators. There are times when Kubler’s anger (understandably) gets the better of her and the storytelling, but ultimately, this is a well-made and important account of an overlooked atrocity.

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