Monday, March 29, 2010
Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

As Joe DeFelice pointed out last week, I am sometimes criticized for taking principled stands on difficult issues. And while it may be easier for me politically to simply go along with the status quo, I believe that the citizens of Canton expect and deserve more from me.

Joe and I disagree on the use of so-called aversive therapy at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton. Aversive therapy was first introduced in the 1930's as a possible means to "cure" people of homosexuality and alcohol addiction. It is based on the practice of shocking hogs on their way to be slaughtered so that they would be unconscious but not dead, and was originally used to make difficult patients meek and manageable. By associating the patient's mind with an unpleasant stimulus (i.e. pain, nausea or fear), JRC trains its patients to discontinue certain activities. Today, at this special-needs facility in Canton, aversive therapy is used on children with behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric problems, as well as those with autism.

Quite simply, I believe that applying painful electric shocks to the skin of innocent children is wrong. I co-authored with Representative John Scibak, a licensed psychologist, legislation that will significantly reduce the application of aversive therapy and require strict safeguards for its use. That bill was reported favorably to the Senate last week, and I intend to fight for its passage. In addition to the U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the JRC to which Mr. DeFelice made reference in his column, there are published reports that the state's Attorney General is nearing completion of a criminal investigation of an August 2007 incident in which two innocent students, whose arms and legs were bound, were shocked repeatedly to the point that one of the students was hospitalized for treatment of his burns.

It seems that Joe and I also disagree on common sense testing of older drivers. Under current law a 100-year-old person can renew his or her license by mail, and would not have to do so again until age 105, regardless of his or her diminished physical or cognitive health. We have passed very strict laws to protect young drivers; it is time that we do the same for our seniors. Recently the Senate passed a bill that will allow our seniors to have their physician attest to their continued ability to drive safely, which will ensure that senior drivers are medically fit to drive while protecting their dignity.
Finally, Joe mentioned my plan to allow the town of Milton to lease the Max Ulin Rink, which is currently owned and operated by the state, to a professional management company. Under my plan, Massachusetts taxpayers would save $12.5 million over twenty-five years, the Town would receive $2.5 million in new revenue over that same period of time, and Milton’s youth would have a professionally run, year-round facility. Respectfully, I am not sure why Joe or anyone else would object to this proposal.

Your elected officials owe you their best judgment, irrespective of the political consequences. For as long as I have the privilege of representing you in the Massachusetts Senate, I will work hard and exercise my best judgment on behalf of the citizens of Canton.

Brian A. Joyce
State Senator