Above is a digital copy of a VHS tape obtained through a source by ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing. The recording shows a date of December 25, 1999.
ABC15 is posting a 12-minute section of the video. For context, the section starts one minute before Paul Babeu begins discussing his job at the DeSisto School and ends one minute after the discussion ends.
The video has not been edited. However, ABC15 blurred the faces of Babeu’s family members with one exception – his brother, Shaun Babeu. Shaun Babeu also worked at the DeSisto School and is an Arizona elected law enforcement official, a Pinal County Justice of the Peace.
This is an approximate transcript of the video. Some brief portions may be difficult to hear or muffled by background noise.
The conversation about DeSisto begins after family members ask about someone at DeSisto they met recently. The family jokes about him having “seductive eyes.” One family member asks why that person is at DeSisto. Paul Babeu says “drugs and stuff like that.”
Note: The following comments begin 1:00 into the clip. Time on the screen says 5:02 p.m.
Woman: Do you do drug testing on them down there?
Paul Babeu: No. There’s no drugs on the campus.
Woman: There are ways they could get them.
Paul: It’s pretty impossible (may have said responsible).
Paul: Staff can’t even smo ke.
Paul: You’d be fired if you did that.
Paul: [nods yes] We’ve fired a couple of people for smoking.
Paul: [nods yes]
Man: What do you have for security there?
Paul: No security. The whole thing about the school is the all of the doors are open. Nothing is locked, except medicine cabinets, things like that.
Man: Well that’s state law?
Paul: [clears throat] and the business office, and stuff like that.
Paul: Yeah, the kids, uh, they, run the school. Yeah, like the kids, it’s such an honest system. And, you can tell when somebody is a teenager. It’s hard to…
Woman: They probably are coming back; and you say, you need to tell me what they did.
Paul: No. They turn it in because they act out. Eventually it comes out because the kids are in separate dorms. And when they do turn-ins, they turn in all of their stuff. So they release, and this is how the structure is set up, anything that is holding them back, because they are in the corner, or they’re…
Woman: Get out?
Paul: Yeah. And they turn stuff into the dorm. And they work with the kids. And it’s all therapeutic. And then, if the other person hasn’t turned it in, they confront them. And they confront the other person with that. But if you turn it in, it’s fine.
Man: Turn what in?
Paul: Turn any, it’s called a turn-in. Like if you did something wrong, and you don’t turn it in, then that’s when you get in trouble.
Shaun Babeu: Even the staff members do that.
Woman: Get out, tell on each other?
Shaun: Yeah like the staff, like somebody did something, and they had to tell on the other staff members.
Paul: Oh yeah. Staff, there’s, people get probated. They have to get their job back. And they can get fired, but they, it doesn’t mean, it’s not fired in the same sense. They have to get their job back.
Woman: How do these rules work out? I mean could somebody sue you guys for firing them for something frivolous that doesn’t make sense?
Paul: No. They understand right when they are there. These are addicts. These are any, they have to be free of anything, any distraction, like food to TV, radio, anything like that to focus on themselves, because they use all of these fillers to cover up their problems. And this is why we remove all that. And it’s like smoking…
Man: So they don’t have no TV, nothing like that?
Paul: No. Unless like today. They are watching a movie. They go to the movies, things like that. But these are all kids from, they’re not violent kids, but they are kids who have had trouble with, uh, eating disorders, drugs, sex, getting in trouble with the law, trying to commit suicide, stuff like that. They are all there because of problems they hold internally. And they become a little quiet and cut off from the world or they explode and do violent things and they act out. Paul: There’s two separate dorms and this is where there is supervision all of the time. And even if it’s like you’re in a certain dorm, uh, they can’t even throw in the mansion. Like somebody threw something in the mansion this morning and the whole dorm was thrown out.
Woman: What do you mean they threw something in the mansion?
Paul: [Motioning with hand] You can’t even throw something from here to there, even throwing it away. The kids can’t.
Paul: Because it’s a rule. There’s all kinds of rules. And that rule is just out of disrespect, horsing around, and stuff like that. You can’t horse around in the mansion. And it’s, like, you’re supposed to be respectful. They do that stuff, everybody else pays the price. It’s like the basic training kind of thing too, where, you know, they are grouped, they are hand-held, there are different things you can do to bring them back. They have to whisper if they are really loud, like, dorm staff will warn the kids. And say, like, alright, this is your warning. Next time, you’re going to be whispered. And then, if they’re, so if they got a warning, they have to whisper. And if they still act out, then they are silenced. You know they can’t talk at all.
Woman: Oh come on.
Paul: Yeah. Or they get into meetings. They talk things…
Woman: And do you think that works?
Paul: It does work.
Woman: Don’t you think that’s a little crazy?
Paul: You should see these people coming in there, Lucy. They are absolutely bonkers. And they come into this school and it’s very structured. It’s disciplined. It’s peer pressure. Because these kids who are there know the rules and the only way you make it through there is you work the system. You follow the rules. And then before you know it, you are buying into everything. And they believe it and it is therapeutic. And it helps them. And they are in therapy all of the time. And in dorm meetings and…
Woman: Now they are going (inaudible) DeSisto. (People laugh)
Paul: No they are in a structure that makes it healthy for them. Because in the end, what they, what the whole school is about, is about learning to cope with tragedy and failure and everything else that their, their family has usually taken away from them, because you love your kids, you’re family, you don’t want them to go through things. And many times these kids have gone to these places and their parents they just have no boundaries whatsoever.
Paul: So the kids there, there is so much structure around everything.
Shaun: [Talking to someone off camera about washing dishes] Need some more dishes?
Paul: There’s all kinds of dishes right here. [Talking about dishes] Pull them in here.
[CONVERSATION BREAKS 6:34 WHILE PEOPLE HANDLE DISHES]
[CONVERSATION RESUMES AT 8:06]
Paul: These kids get sent to what’s called the farm, where they actually do manual labor. They are put in farmer’s suit. You know the Dickies outfit.
Woman: You’re kidding me. Do you really?
Woman: Come on?
Paul: They are cornered and everything.
Paul: They are cornered if they have turn-ins, if they aren’t being honest, things like that. They can be cornered for weeks. And they have to sit in the corner. It’s up to their timetable. They have a chair, and they have to sit in the corner. [Babeu points toward the corner].
Woman: Get out.
Paul: And they have to face the corner.
Woman: Come on?
Woman: What reason?
Paul: To focus, so there is no distractions. They can just focus on why they are there. You know.
Woman: While they are against the wall, do you think anyone deserves to sit in the corner against the wall looking at the wall…
Paul: Yeah, yeah. It’s like time-out.
Woman: Well I agree with time-out. But…
Paul: It’s the same thing. Because these kids…
Man: Lucy, that’s it. You’re done talking. Take your chair, go sit in the corner and I’ll tell you when you can come out.
Woman: Do you sit there all day?
Paul: Yeah. You get to eat. You get to all those things. But you don’t get interaction. See you’re closed off from everything else. And this is why you’re there for a reason. And it’s, they’re there for a reason.
Woman: And once they learn…
Paul: Oh it’s amazing.
Woman: I don’t understand why someone would misbehave to get in that corner and stay in the corner.
Paul: (Takes hands out from behind his head, leans forward) Because they are hopeless. Because they’re hopeless. They need to get through, this is why. They need to feel hopeless and feel depression and complete failure.
Woman: You gotta feel your feelings.
Paul: They have to bottom out and then be able to work through it. Because every time before, and in most cases, it’s been taken away from them and it’s going to be made better by somebody else. Now they’re learning to cope with all of these things, they are equipped, and they are given additional therapy while they are doing….
Man: Now what happens to the ones that you tell go sit in the corner and they don’t?
Paul: They do. They are made to sit in the corner.
Woman: I don’t understand why they would. Why would they misbehave and…
Man: What if they don’t?
Paul: Because it’s almost like psychological…
Woman: If they misbehave, why would they sit there all day?
Paul: When they are down on the farm, there’s additional staff. There’s additional supervision. There’s alarms on the doors and windows. During the night, everything like that. They are given additional therapy too. And then, they are on work crews, and if there’s all kind of trouble, they get down on their knees, they are lobbied, and they have to sit down and talk things through. And the kids through their peer pressure and they’re taken, their privileges are taken away from them for all this stuff, it’s very disciplined down on the farm. And it works. And if kids need to be restrained, we restrain them, without hurting them at all. Put them down and just keep them there until they work it out of them. Now people are talking to them and you sit down. And if they need to be restrained again, they are in a relationship even being restrained, they are interacting with people. And that’s what some people need because they are so (inaudible)…
Man: You’re talking physical, you’re talking physically restraining somebody.
Paul: Oh yeah. Sometimes it is. I’m not restraint qualified. But the kids there, the staff are.
Shaun: They call it restraint qualified?
Paul: Restraint certified. And they are med certified.
[CONVERSATION ABOUT DESISTO SCHOOL ENDS AT 11:28]