THE PROGRAM: CONS, CULTS, AND KIDNAPPING on Netflix is a new documentary series in three parts about a “troubled youth program”. Or actually, several. It’s brutal to hear about and scary that it’s still happening. Read our The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping docuseries review here!

THE PROGRAM: CONS, CULTS, AND KIDNAPPING is a new Netflix docuseries in three parts. The subject is “troubled youth programs” and it’s nothing short of systemic child abuse. So yes, this is very much a true crime documentary as most of the things that happened at these “academies” were criminal offenses.

The craziest thing, to me, is how these so-called programs are still active today. It’s a miracle that anyone survives ultimately. Each of the three episodes has a runtime of just around one hour, which works well. Nothing feels too forced, while still continuously moving forward. No easy task with all the things covered in this investigative docuseries.

Continue reading our The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping docuseries review below. Find it on Netflix from March 5, 2024.

Life at The Academy of Ivy Ridge

This docuseries begins with experiences at The Academy of Ivy Ridge. The campus has been abandoned now, and former students (more like prisoners) are roaming around the crumbling facilities. There, they find a whole lot of evidence of what took place there.

The Academy at Ivy Ridge supposedly used therapy and recreational activities to help troubled teens. What actually took place there was mental and physical abuse. The teens were surrounded by adults who really couldn’t care less about helping them.

Those who operated the places were getting rich, while the kids were experiencing real-life horror. And those who worked there seemed to enjoy hurting others.

It didn’t help that the rules at Ivy Ridge were impossible to adhere to. I mean, you could once you got the hang of it, but it required indoctrination and not being human. Rules such as no talking and no smiling. You can’t go outside. In fact, you can’t even look out the window. Also, no looking at other students.

Breaking any rule would result in points, which you did not want. Life there made jail and prison look good. In fact, when some of the students end up in jail, it feels like a vacation. Jail was freedom compared to what they experienced at Ivy Ridge. Just let that sink in for a minute!

The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping – Review | Netflix Docuseries

The Real-Life Horrors of the Troubled Teen Industry

As brutal and scary as it is to hear about these things, you will also see video recordings of what happened along with written statements by the perpetrators. Or, as they put it in this investigative docuseries “signed confessions”. It should come as a shock to discover that these “troubled teen”-places still exist, but somehow it doesn’t.

It’s a strange ideology of “fighting fire with fire” like you can beat the attitude or gay out of someone. You can’t!

Especially not while holding the Bible in one hand and doing everything Jesus told you not to do according to that very same book. But this really is just another example of weaponized religion. Whether that religion is rooted in some obscure home-made cult or an acknowledged and widespread religion is irrelevant.

It has nothing to do with faith and everything to do with power. Well, power and money because there is obviously a lot of money to be made through the “Troubled Teen Industry”.

Watch The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping on Netflix now!

Katherine Kubler is the director of The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping and she was also a former student at Ivy Ridge. She is also the one taking charge and getting former students to join her when they revisit the place where so much trauma was inflicted on them.

All sorts of documents are left behind at Ivy Ridge, so everyone finds stuff with their name on it. Including very personal paperwork. It seems crazy that these things can just be lying around. I mean, opening someone else’s mail is a criminal offense, yet former students can find copies of their social security card just left behind at The Academy of Ivy Ridge campus.

To me, this kind of investigative documentary is a must-watch for everyone. We need to know what’s going on in order to change it. Also, simply acknowledging that acting out in any way doesn’t make someone troubled. Just a teenager. And those who are actually troubled due to substance abuse or mental health issues need real help. Not this torture!

The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping premieres on Netflix on March 5, 2024


Investigative docuseries about a woman still haunted by her experience in the world of troubled teens.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard
Latest posts by Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard (see all)