Kidnapping Incorporated: The Unregulated Youth-Transportation Industry and the Potential for Abuse

By Robbins, Ira P. | American Criminal Law Review, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Kidnapping Incorporated: The Unregulated Youth-Transportation Industry and the Potential for Abuse


Robbins, Ira P., American Criminal Law Review


ABSTRACT

Strangers come into a child's room in the middle of the night, drag her kicking and screaming into a van, apply handcuffs, and drive her to a behavior-modification facility at a distant location. What sounds like a clear-cut case of kidnapping is complicated by the fact that the child's parents not only authorized this intervention, but also paid for it. This scarcely publicized practice--known as the youth-transportation industry--operates on the fringes of existing law. The law generally presumes that parents have almost unlimited authority over their children, but the youth-transportation industry has never been closely examined regarding exactly what the transportation process entails or whether it is in fact legal.

The companies provide a service to parents who want to send their children to behavior-modification facilities, including boot camps and other residential reform schools, but who are unable or unwilling to deliver the children themselves. A transportation company contracts with the parents to arrange for pickup and conveyance; the parents delegate rights over their children to the company, usually by signing a power of attorney. Due to the circumstances in which these transports typically take place, however, this delegation of rights has far greater implications than simply authorizing the transportation of a child from point A to point B. After suffering the emotional trauma of being taken from their parents, children may suffer physical abuse as well, as the companies often use force in the form of handcuffs and other restraints. This Article examines the details of the transport process and raises legal questions about the disciplinary authority that parents possess, including the extent to which they can grant this authority to a third party.

Similar questions arose in the past with analogous private-transportation entities, but those questions were addressed when Congress issued strict regulations to monitor and limit their ability to transport vulnerable individuals. This Article provides the first in-depth examination of the legal issues relevant to the youth-transportation industry and recommends regulations that should be promulgated to keep the delegation of parental authority in check and thus protect the best interests of the child.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION
  I.  BACKGROUND
      A.  Youth-Transportation Companies
      B.  General Rights of Parents and Children
      C.  Child-Protection Laws
          1.  Child Abuse
          2.  Kidnapping and False Imprisonment
      D.  Parallels: Juvenile-Offender and Private-Prisoner
          Transport Industries
 II.  POOR REGULATION IN THE YOUTH-TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY
      OPENS THE DOOR TO POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES
      A.  Parental Delegation of Authority to Youth Transporters
          Through Power of Attorney Is Inconsistent with the
          Purpose of Power-of-Attorney Statutes
      B.  The Circumstances Surrounding Youth Transport Often
          Constitute Child Abuse
      C.  The Circumstances Surrounding Youth Transport Often
          Constitute Kidnapping and False Imprisonment
      D.  Comparable Abuses in the Transport of Juvenile Offenders
          and Private Prisoners Demonstrate the Need for
          Regulation
III.  PROPOSED REGULATION
CONCLUSION

INTRODUCTION

It was a quiet fall morning, just like any another. (1) Everyone was asleep, except Julie's parents, who were anxiously awaiting the call. (2) Julie had been experiencing difficulties at school and at home--the fighting over her recent behavior and disappointing academic performance had reached a boiling point. (3) Desperate and confused, Julie's parents had researched online residential reform schools that focused on adolescent behavior modification. Her parents had discovered a facility that seemed promising and enrolled Julie at once. Because Julie had been acting out, her parents feared that she would refuse to attend the new school and possibly run away. …

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