Thursday, July 14, 2011
House blocks skin shocks ban; another ban proposed

For the third time in the past five years, a proposed budget amendment authored by state Senator Brian A. Joyce that sought to end the use of electric skin shocks as a treatment option in Massachusetts met its end in a conference committee after House members refused to go along with the idea.
But the senator may still get his wish after all, as the Patrick administration has since announced a set of proposed regulation changes that would accomplish the same goal as Joyce’s failed bill.
Joyce’s proposal, which was aimed at one institution in particular – the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton –was previously thought to be in good shape following a unanimous vote in the Senate, coupled with the announcement that the JRC’s founder, Matthew Israel, had been indicted on multiple criminal charges.
However, any momentum gained from the events of late May quickly fizzled during recent budget negotiations with the House, where one member, Representative Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Jamaica Plain), has long credited the controversial practice with saving his nephew’s life.
According to a State House News Service report issued last week, the administration “quietly filed its regulations on June 23, while budget negotiations continued.”
The new regulations, proposed by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), would prohibit all Level III aversive treatments – such as spanking, slapping, or skin shocks – except in cases where a student had a court-approved treatment plan in effect by September 1, 2011.
Under the terms of the proposal, which is described as “nearly identical” to Joyce’s budget amendment, students who are exempted from the prohibition would still be subject to annual reviews.
Although disappointed with the inaction on the part of his fellow legislators, Joyce praised the efforts of the Patrick administration and vowed to continue his efforts to end the “barbaric” practices at the Judge Rotenberg Center.
“I applaud Governor Patrick for his efforts to protect the children at the JRC,” Joyce said in a statement emailed to the Citizen. “I remain steadfast in my commitment to defend these innocent and often disabled children from the painful, harmful and abusive practices referred to as aversive therapy.”
The Department of Developmental Services will hold two public hearings on the proposed regulation changes: next Wednesday, July 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Worcester Public Main Library, and next Friday, July 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the John McCormack Building, 1 Ashburton Place in Boston. Written comments are due by 5 p.m. on August 1.