Senator Brian A. Joyce strongly supports the United States Department of Justice official investigation of the Judge Rotenberg Center that has apparently been initiated in response to a September 30th letter of complaint from disability advocacy groups. The letter, urging the Department to end the use of electric shock and other painful aversive therapies, was signed by 31 disability groups from across the nation.
The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton is believed to be the only facility in the country that uses often painful electric shock therapy on disabled children in order to alter behavior. In 2007, the State launched a criminal investigation into an incident where a prank phone call to the school led to the repeated electric shocking of two individuals in the dead of night. One of them, a child, was shocked 29 times, the other was shocked 77 times – sometimes while restrained, causing burns so severe they needed to be treated at a hospital. That investigation is apparently ongoing. In October 2009, the JRC made headlines again when Director Matthew Israel was fined by the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure for allowing 14 unlicensed employees at the school to use the title “psychologist.”
Senator Joyce has been fighting to ban the use of electric shock treatments at the facility for several years. Joyce has called such treatment of autistic and other children with special needs "barbaric." Along with his colleague Representative John W. Scibak, former Director of Psychology at Belchertown State School, Joyce has also pushed for the passage of a trio of bills that would systematically examine the use of aversive therapy in the Commonwealth, ensure that only qualified clinicians are permitted to utilize controversial treatment techniques, and provide for substantial and effective oversight of any individual or school that utilizes aversive therapy through the use of independent experts. These bills have the support of numerous civil rights groups, behaviorists, and disability advocates including the ACLU and the Disability Law Center.
"We in government have a fundamental obligation to protect the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society, our children with disabilities. I applaud the Justice Department's willingness to investigate the JRC, and I look forward to the state criminal investigation concluding as well as the passage of state legislation to protect these children," said Senator Joyce.