Youth Training Center With Narconon
Narconon employs a series of studies, each followed by practical exercises to increase the awareness, communication and responsibility level the individuals in the program. These are arranged in an exact curriculum. The first ones are designed to rehabilitate the individual’s ability to look at his life and his environment as it exists now instead of having his attention on past experiences. This tends to reduce his craving for drugs. It is followed by procedures which increase the person’s ability to communicate, his awareness, and his ability to control himself and his environment. This alleviates some of the underlying causes of drug use. By increasing his understanding, of what he is doing, it enables him to gradually become less the effect in life and more at cause.
At Youth Training Center, Chino, with The Narconon Program
In my rear view mirror I could see the sun, a burning sphere, molten orange. It was quite low in the sky and directly back down the road. We were headed due east. As always at sunset, I felt a yearning for the sun not to leave. “Look at the sun,” I said to Kim Gottlieb, Staff photographer, and to the four young men who were escorting us to the youth Training Center (Y.T.S.) at Chino, a prison for 18 to 20 year old males.
It seemed almost a stark transition that, as we stepped from my car and walked to the entrance of Y.T.S., the last of the sun, like a drop of lava, was swallowed by a distant hill. When we’d driven up, we’d seen two fully outfitted football teams in action on a field, and the sounds floating over that fenced in field had been healthy shouts of competition.
So I wasn’t expecting all of the iron bars. Or the towers. Or the guards. But they were there, as we signed and were admitted.
As the six of us crossed the grounds, the feeling was like being in a restricted campus, until an omnipotent voice seemingly coming from God demanded “Will the head of the Narconon group come to the office.” There was no polite question mark at the end of the sentence, the voice was authoritative and it was an order. We were in prison.
As we strolled across “campus,” the wolf whistles began, and there was one of two things to do. I turned around and waved and grinned. Everyone likes to be acknowledged…
It seemed to break the tension…
Under some trees, a great bear of a man, not tall, in a green floral shirt with rolled up sleeves exposing hammy forearms greeted us. This had to be Irish Conway, former felon and Father Flannigan of the Narconon group at Y.T.S. In the context of our conversation, Irish Conway said, “I feel I owe a debt to the State of California. After all, I’ve spent 13 years of my life in California penitentiaries. Now I work with these guys. And I’m a free man. There’s no more paranoia climbing on my back now. I drive down the street and I don’t look over my shoulder anymore. I’ve come a long way out of the sewer.”
I thought back to earlier in the afternoon, when Kim and I had been at the Narconon Headquarters in Los Angeles. Mike Armstrong, 23, the Public Executive Secretary of Narconon had been telling us about Irish Conway: “He’s been the route. He went right in on them and they have a lot of admiration for him. He’s been the route.” At that time, I’d asked the meaning of Narconon. He’d said, “ It stems from the Greek words narcosis–stupification—and–non-without. Without stupification.”
“Irish Conway doesn’t mess around with just talk,” Armstrong had continued. “I remember when the class first began, he was discussing communication, which is the crux of everything anyway. At one point, he picked up a metal wastebasket and threw it, shocking the prisoners out of half attention. ‘That’s communication,’ he said. Then he began throwing erasers at them. ‘And that,’ he said.”
Now, in front of the bulldoggish Irish Conway, I had to smile. Here was definitely a man to capture anyone’s attention - and keep it.
Suddenly we were surrounded by prisoners. Such a funny word that is now, as I write it, applying it to those young men. They were something out of an “East Side Gang” movie. They converged around Kim and me–not wolves after a winter’s fast as I’d expected, but like a pack of gamboling puppies. Most of them were dressed in varicolored pants and T-shirts, and they were all chewing and snapping gum, curious and smiling, unthreatening. I flashed on my little brother Eddy, 17, and my heart melted. We smiled at each other and went into “class.”
“Class” was just that: a standard-type classroom with regular desk chairs. The 40 or so of us just fit, with Irish Conway as “Teach,” standing at the class-front desk. I barely suppressed a chuckle, seeing this tough-looking, warm hearted man about to begin school. The whole thing out of a Boy’s Town movie.
“Okay,” began the teacher. Let’s get this thing going with roll call” One of the students called roll. “Jack.” “Yeah.” “Ed.” “Yeah.” “John.” No answer. Irish Conway: “We’re gonna have to get him back on course.”