LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — She’s known as a fashion icon, reality star and the highest-paid female DJ in the world. Now, add ‘troubled teen industry survivor’ to the list.
Paris Hilton, 42, publicly relived her childhood through the 2020 Documentary, This Is Paris. Snippets were shown to a sea of mass tort attorneys attending the Mass Torts Made Perfect conference inside the Bellagio Hotel & Casino Wednesday morning.
“They would literally just beat the hell out of us,” Hilton said in the snippet, with an animated version of her younger self being slapped by a camp counselor on screen. “I felt like a lot of the people who worked there got off on torturing children.”
She details the beatings, starvation and violations endured when her parents began sending her to “mental health” camps as a teenager. After four escapes, she landed at Provo Canyon School in Utah for 11 months.
It was an effort by her parents, she said, to prevent her rebellious actions from tarnishing her family’s mega-brand image. Her family, then, was left in the dark about what happened after a “delivery service” kidnapped her from her home in the middle of the night with her parent’s permission.
“We can’t call for help, there’s no way,” Hilton said to the audience, describing how counselors would end phone conversations with family if she ever attempted to tell them about endured abuse or destroy letters to family that indicated the same. “(The camp) attracts a lot of predators and pedophiles because they’re in a position where they can abuse their power.”
“(My parents) didn’t know,” she said.
While Hilton may be far from home inside the Bellagio, the “troubled teens” problem is not.
Caleb Cunningham, Levin Papantonio Rafferty’s Attorney, practices mass tort across the country and refers to these camps as “slave labor.” He points to a 2022 inspection by the Nevada Legislative Auditor of 19 children’s facilities in the state.
Multiple facilities were found – amongst other negligence – with incomplete and inaccurate medication records, inappropriate age-related activities, administration of medication without consent, and even an outside storage unit being used as a place to sleep.
Some of the mentioned organizations are still in operation, like Nevada Homes For Youth in Clark County, 3 Angels Care in Washoe County and Never Give Up Youth Healing Center in Nye County.
“(Troubled teens organizations) prime the legislature, and they prime the judges, and say ‘Oh, we’re this great facility. You can’t trust these kids,’” Cunningham said after the Wednesday convention. “You live in one state and you send your kid to another state. So, it kind of falls into regulatory loopholes.”
It’s deceptive marketing, as he calls it, that puts multi-billion-dollar profits over service. Hilton said she discovered the education consultant who convinced her parents to send her away received commissions for every child sent to these facilities.
Democratic Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser Blouin – who has advocated to reform youth residential programs like those Hilton endured – says the industry accumulates $23 billion annually.
“They’ll just pay the fine, rename themselves, take the kids with them, and keep doing it. The only way to shut them down is to take their money away,” Blouin said to the audience during the convention. “None of this is mental health treatment.”
Now, with the very viral exposure, efforts to establish national legislation with regulation and consequences push forward. Cunningham said efforts are also focused on Wall Street, which financially backs several of these facilities.
“These facilities are a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and they’re lying to these folks to get the kids sent there,” Cunningham said. “There has to be serious legislation here, and what we’re calling on the attorneys who came to the conference here: go out, listen to these children, listen to these families, and bring lawsuits under the current law.”