In a piece scheduled to air tonight on ABC’s Nightline, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, calls the shock therapy used on autistic and other disabled children at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton ‘torture’ and explains how he has contacted the United States government and asked them to intervene.
Senator Brian A. Joyce, an outspoken critic of the JRC and its so-called aversive therapy practices, hailed the U.N. decision. Senator Joyce has continually filed legislation to ban or limit the practice. The bills have the support of numerous civil rights groups, behaviorists, and disability advocates for the disabled.
The JRC, located in Joyce’s own state Senate district, is thought to be the only facility in the country that uses electric shock therapy to curtail 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. That investigation, by the Attorney General’s Office, remains open. Last October 2009, the JRC made headlines again when Director Matthew Israel was fined by the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure for allowing 14 unlicensed clinicians at the school to use the title “psychologist”. And just last Friday, the Canton Police were called to a JRC group home, where a brawl had broken out between students and staff, who had donned protective helmets. News reports indicate that the brawl took thirty minutes to contain, leading critics to blast the JRC’s behavior modification methods as ‘barbaric’.
“Over the past dozen or more years there are documented instances of innocent children being subjected to the unconscionable practice of electric shock and other so-called aversive treatment which has resulted in severe personal injuries, hospitalization, or even death,” said Senator Joyce. “It is time that we stand up and protect the rights and dignity of our most vulnerable populations.”
The Nightline piece, “UN Calls Shock Treatment at Mass. School 'Torture'”, is scheduled to air tonight on ABC at 11:35 p.m. ET.
Joyce will seek to move his legislation, S.45, S.46, S.47, and H.154, co-sponsored by Representative John W. Scibak and Barbara A. L’Italien, to the Senate floor prior to the end of the legislative session.