29 Nov 2008

11 boys removed at faith-based Reclamation Ranch

The Birmingham News - November 25, 2008

Beating, torture allegations probed

by Kent Faulk

A faith-based program plans a protest this morning near the Blount County Courthouse where a hearing is to be held on what will be done with a group of boys removed Saturday from one of its facilities by law enforcement officers investigating allegations of severe abuse, beating and torture.

The faith-based program is calling the accusations false and misleading on its Web site. About 11 boys were removed from a Reclamation Ranch facility in Empire on Saturday and, based on court orders, placed into the custody of the Blount County Department of Human Resources, said Blount County District Attorney Tommy Rountree. The pastor and founder of the facility put the number at 17 boys.

Based on a complaint of "severe abuse, beating and torture of a minor child" at the ranch, a search warrant was executed by the Blount County Sheriff's Office, Alabama Bureau of Investigation, and the district attorney's office, Rountree said in a press release.

"The search by law enforcement and the questioning of involved minors yielded corroboration of the original allegations and evidence of other instances of mistreatment. The investigation is ongoing," Rountree said in his statement.

No arrests or charges had been filed as of Monday, Rountree said. He declined to give details of the allegations, although he said there had been no allegation of any sexual abuse.

A court hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. in Blount County, which Reclamation Ranch's Web site says will determine whether the boys will be returned to their parents or remain in state custody. The ministry plans to rally near the courthouse.

On www.reclamationranch.com, the facility called the allegations false and misleading and said it doesn't condone abuse. "We don't use any corporal punishment," said Pastor Jack Patterson, director and founder of Reclamation Ranch.

According to its Web site, Reclamation Ranch operates two facilities in the Empire area for boys and girls ages 12-17 and one program for men ages 18-35. The girls facility called Rachel Academy is in Walker County about a mile and a half from the boys campus in Blount County.

Girls at Reclamation Ranch were questioned at the Sumiton police station on Saturday but were later released. Patterson said the girls facility was still in operation on Monday and he planned to continue operation of the boys facility.

The Web site describes the program as working with boys and girls who have had problems in different areas that resulted in a family member placing them with the program.

"The Lighthouse for Boys is a minimum one-year program that incorporates Bible teaching, character training and respect for family," according to the Reclamation Ranch Web site. "The boys learn how to obey authority, how to complete chores in a `Christian' fashion with a good attitude and to complete all they do to the best of their abilities. They are given individual counseling sessions with the superintendents where they are taught how to deal with bitterness, anger and rebellion with the Word of God as our foundation. We keep the boys busy with exercise, school, chores and lots of fun!"

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