Former Crockett State School resident writes book, shares story
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
A former resident of the Crockett State School recently returned to the Texas Youth Commission facility to film the last segment of a documentary about his life, and to share his story with current residents there. John Borgstedt of Canton celebrated his 33rd birthday on Dec. 21. The first 22 years of his life were spent in one form of captivity or another. He was born to a woman who made it clear from the beginning of his life that she did not want him and wished he had not been born. Remarkably, Borgstedt sur-vived abuse at the hands of his mother, staff members and others at psychiatric facilities, Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In an interview with the Houston County Courier, Borgstedt gave credit for his survival to God. His purpose in life is to make a positive difference in the lives of abused and incarcerated youth. “I love giving back to these kids,” Borgstedt said. His goal, he said, is to build a boys’ ranch in the East Texas area that is different from any other. He wants each resident to have his own room and an individual caregiver, like a mother-figure. He envisions a caring Christian environment with livestock, including chicken and cattle, where the youth have chores and responsibilities and go to school. Borgstedt said more than two million copies of his autobiography, “I Love You, Mom/Please Don’t Break My Heart”, were sold last year. He has four co-authored books being released in the next year. Most of the proceeds from his book sales come back to Borgstedt, he said, so he can build the boys ranch. One of the first things incarcerated youth ask this TYC poster child is, “How much are they paying you to talk to us?” Borgstedt’s reply is always, “Nothing”. He is there for the youth, to deliver a positive message to them from someone who has been in their shoes. One thing he tells the youth is, “You might not hear me today, but someday you’ll remember.” Borgstedt tells them, “Now is your chance to change and make a difference.” “The response is over-whelming,” Borgstedt said. What he described as the “roughest and toughest kids” wanted a copy of his book and a poster (A TYC poster features a photo of Borgstedt holding his book, prompting youth to “Dream, Work, Achieve”). They shared their own stories and talked about how they want to change their lives. Borgstedt tells the youth, “No matter what happens today, there’s always a new day.” Borgstedt lived a childhood with a mother who told him she wished he was dead, and in fact, tried to kill him by putting a plastic bag over his head after she thought she had drugged him into paralysis. “I Love You Mom” chronicles that event and others. His mother persuaded doctors to give him medications he didn’t need, some that caused temporary paralysis. She shopped for psychiatric facilities to take him. At one point, when he was “home”, she had a separate room built for him next to the garage. There, he was held in solitary confinement, with no contact with siblings and food pushed through a slot in the door, Borgstedt tells in his book. The cover photo on Borgstedt’s book is him, as a child, running in an attempt to catch up with his mother as she drove off from Austin State Hospital. Borgstedt concludes his book with the feelings he experienced when he was released from TDCJ at age 22. He wrote, “Slowly absorbing the awesome beauty of the open sky, the grass, and the vastness of the world, I felt the Almighty Power of God erasing the anger and pain from the past.” “Borgstedt continues, “Within the blink of an eye, the huge weight of aggression, bitterness and animalistic instinct for survival vanished. “For the first time in my life, I felt safe and totally liberated. In that moment, God filled my heart with gratitude, hope, joy, peace, and love.” Borgstedt said when he got out of prison, he went to his mother and told her he forgave her. She turned away and left the house. She died a year later, without making any other contact with him. Borgstedt spoke about child advocates. “Those who are talking to the front line, who are talking to kids, law enforce-ment, . . . that’s when you’re a true child advocate,” he said. Heartstone Pictures is expected to release Borgstedt’s documentary in January, and there are plans for a movie. Borgstedt’s book is available at bookstores, but he prefers readers to purchase online so there will be more proceeds for building the boys’ ranch. His website is www.ilove youmom.net.