The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping

Netflix’s newest True Crime series The Program is a gripping, yet deeply challenging watch

"This story does not have a happy ending, and the story is far from over"

Netflix has expanded its ever-growing collection of true crime docos with a riveting new documentary, The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping which explores the controversial history of the Academy at Ivy Ridge.

While originally presented as a boarding school, accounts from former students indicate the deployment of isolation tactics, coercive physical restraints, and a merit-based points system that decided the duration of their enrollment at the institution.

“The reality is torture of children,” a voiceover says. “They were being treated like prisoners.”

The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping

So, what really happened to the students at Academy at Ivy Ridge?!

Academy at Ivy Ridge

Academy at Ivy Ridge was an independent privately owned and operated for-profit behavior modification facility in Ogdensburg, New York.

The now-defunct boarding school was functional from 2001 to 2009 and was designed to rehabilitate troubled teens who were abducted. According to the doco’s director Katherine Kubler (who also attended the school), it was even more sinister than just being sent there against your will.

Students at Academy at Ivy Ridge, Netflix.

The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping
Students at Academy at Ivy Ridge, Netflix

Academy at Ivy Ridge’s Rules and Regulations

As specified in the two-part docu-series, students weren’t allowed to communicate with the outside world, go outside, talk to one another or even smile. Interviewees in the documentary also detailed how they endured sleep and nutritional deprivation, along with compulsory participation in gruelling physical activities.

In an interview with The Sun, Katherine admitted that only once you got to Level Three of the school’s points-based system, it was a “big deal, because you were finally allowed to have a 15-minute phone call, once a month, with your parents.”

A student being restrained. Netflix

“But staff listened in and if you said anything bad about the Program, they would disconnect the call,” she said. “You can’t leave the Program until you get to level six, but it’s impossible to get points. They make it so you’re just stuck here forever.”

On top of this, student belongings were taken, there was no privacy and they had to adopt specific hairstyles.

While teachers enforced the rules, students reportedly had ‘Hope Buddies’, who guided newcomers through the Academy’s strict rules and regulations. This included carefully observing their facial expressions, and ensuring adherence to the school’s stringent codes of conduct.

“I had never done drugs in my life, but to graduate, I had to confess to using heroin, crack, cocaine, LSD…” Alexa Brand, a former student says.

Alexa Brand, Former student. Netflix

The fallout from the Netflix documentary

After the documentary was released, the St. Lawrence County district attorney’s office was inundated with accusations of physical and sexual abuse against the former school and the state Attorney General’s office was also forced to re-open the investigation.

“Documents are still there, documents that we may need down the line for further prosecution,” DA Gary Pasqua said in a statement, asking the public to stay away from the facility.

“Individuals who go there because they’re curious or interested, that’s just going to interfere with our investigation.”

Documents at the now defunct facility. Netflix
Documents at the now defunct facility. Netflix

In addition to this, former employees have been put on leave after social media users have shared pictures, names and information about their whereabouts.


In case you missed it, here is the full trailer below:

Stream The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping on Netflix now.

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