The socialite — whose new YouTube documentary, “This is Paris,” reveals her dark past — was sent in 1995 to one such place, the CEDU school in California.
Hilton, now 39, fled by reportedly calling her grandfather Conrad Hilton to come get her. She escaped another school by jumping a flight of stairs. In 1996, she was sent to a lockdown facility, Provo Canyon, in Utah, until she was 18. There, Hilton alleges, she was beaten by staffers, prescribed unknown pills and forced into solitary confinement for almost 20 hours.
At least one former counselor admits to loathing Hilton.
“She was the absolute worst,” Randolph Roye, a former teacher and counselor at the now-defunct CEDU school in Running Springs, Calif., told The Post. “She was the biggest, most hysterical bitch . . . She was impossible. She wouldn’t do anything we asked her to do.”
But the rebelliousness Roye remembered also helped Hilton survive the schools — and later thrive. She says in the film that the nightmarish experience motivated her to become so rich and successful that no one would ever control her again.
Fallout from the film could help put the brakes on a largely-unregulated, billion-dollar industry that, experts say, preys on vulnerable kids and parents.
Celebrities including Roseanne Barr, Barbara Walters, Graham Nash, Farrah Fawcett and members of the Eagles have sent their children to these facilities.
Teens are often forcibly taken from their homes by security officers and shipped off to schools, sometimes not seeing their parents for two years. Calls and letters are monitored — and kids are threatened with punishment if they tell their families what is going on, according to a number of former students interviewed by The Post.
“It was horrific,” Jen Robison, 31, who attended Provo Canyon School from 2003 to 2005, said. “They isolated us, they put us in restraints, they forcibly drugged us with [antipsychotic] drugs like haloperidol.”
Provo Canyon School said in a statement that the facility was sold in 2000 and school officials can not comment on the past owners but do not “condone or promote any form of abuse.”
Robison is one of the organizers of Breaking Code Silence, a social-media movement encouraging alumni to share testimonials.
“[These schools] say they provide therapy but what most of them do is punish the kids if they do one little thing wrong like make a bed wrong,” Robison claimed. “They take advantage of desperate parents who have no idea what happens at the schools.”
Places like Provo Canyon are now owned by corporations such as Universal Health Services that have profited handsomely from the system — not only by getting parents to fork over more than $7,000 per month, but also collecting money from Medicaid so foster children and other “unwanted” kids can be dumped there.
Alaska spent more than $31 million in Medicaid funding over six years sending 511 kids to reform schools in Utah, according to a recent investigation in the Salt Lake City Tribune.
Many of the roughly 200 private residential schools for teens are found in Utah, Idaho, Montana and Texas because of relatively lax state regulations, experts said.
The #breakingcodesilence movement — according to its Web Site, “Code Silence” is when students are ordered to ignore and not speak to classmates who are being punished — is fighting a system that has roots in a notorious 1960s-era California cult. Synanon was one of the first rehab centers in the world and pioneered the concept of “tough love” to help addicts. Though Synanon imploded, the idea of what is now called “attack therapy” is still practiced in places sometimes called “emotional growth boarding schools.”
Sessions called “raps,” as seen in clips on YouTube, often go on for several days and can include classmates and teachers screaming at other students for infractions or bad attitudes.
The horrors — including disappeared and possibly murdered children — that allegedly took place at the schools have been steadily documented over the years in small films, podcasts like “The Lost Kids” and anonymous online accounts. But they haven’t gotten much public traction before Hilton.
“We were constantly pumped up with all sorts of meds,” Cristy Kirwin, who was sent to Provo Canyon at 13, told The Post. “I was put on [anti-depressants] Prozac, desipramine and lithium. We were all like zombies. Staffers watched you even when you went to the bathroom. When I was put in isolation I was stripped down to my underwear, in front of male guards.”
Kirwin, now 44, said she will never forget the therapist at Provo Canyon, Megan Hamblin, who, she alleged, mistakenly identified her as having multiple personalities.
Hamblin, now 79 and retired, said she did not recall Kirwin. She disagreed with claims that parents did not know what was happening at the facilities and denied that any of the treatment was inappropriate.
“Not all the kids were in restraints,” Hamblin said. “A lot of them were a handful, but they were good kids. . . There may have been some problems, but I feel a lot of these students speaking out now are exaggerating.”
Persephone Jael Brick was 16 when she was sent to Provo Canyon — not because she was a “bad kid,” Brick said, but because her parents hoped she’d get mental health treatment for schizo-affective disorder and anxiety.
Instead, Brick, 24, said, she often got thrown into solitary — a padded room called the “Investment Unit” — for as long as three days if she cried or talked back.
It got its name, Brick said, because students accumulated “investment points” for offenses as minor as being late in line for dinner or talking back. Some teens would be in the Investment Units for weeks or months, former students told The Post.
They also cited the trauma they still feel as a result of “dial 9”: Staffers used walkie-talkies to “dial 9” when they perceived a child to be acting out, Brick and others said.
When a “dial 9” was called, the other students had to turn and face the wall so they wouldn’t see what Brick described as “three large men coming to restrain a 120-pound girl” and bring her to an isolated cell.
Brick called schools like Provo part of a “very predatory industry. They prey on parents who are desperate and who don’t understand how mental health treatment works . . . the companies that run these schools are trying to be like the private prison system.”
Universal Health Services said in a statement: “We do not condone or promote any form of abuse . . . all alleged/suspected abuse is reported to our state regulatory authorities, law enforcement and Child Protective Services immediately as required.”
Randolph Roye does not regret his years teaching at CEDU and says 70 percent of his former students feel positively about their experiences there. He admitted that the other 30 percent didn’t like it.
Even so, he said, the school had many wins. Ironically, his description of the kids who benefited from CEDU sounds a lot like Paris Hilton.
“So many kids had only known failure,” he said. “We had to get them invested in their own lives and, for some of them, something just clicked. It was tough love, sure, but they got it. They decided they wanted to invest in their future and make a success of themselves and they did.”
But former student Kirwin said “it’s time for people to stop sending kids” to these places. And fellow alum Brick agrees.
“We were kids,” she said. “We weren’t supposed to suffer and try to survive. We were supposed to be safe.”