Thursday, July 1, 2010
UN official calls Rotenberg Center shock treatment torture

CANTON - A top United Nations official has described as torture the shock treatments used by the Judge Rotenberg Center on some of its special needs students.
Manfred Nowak, the Austrian lawyer who is the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture, in May asked the federal government to investigate the use of electric shocks at the school in Canton.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation into whether the center violates federal disability laws by disciplining and controlling students with electric shock therapy.
“I have no doubts about it,” replied Nowak when asked if the practice is torture in an interview broadcast on ABC-TV’s “Nightline” this week.
Nowak sought the investigation after reviewing a report critical of the center by Mental Disabilities Rights International, a human rights organization.
Matthew Israel, who founded the center 39 years ago, called the report Nowak reviewed a “false, misleading, sensationalized, and one-sided account of JRC that is worthy only of a tabloid.”
The center posted a 115-page response to the report on its website, saying its methods have been supported in 113 scientific articles and in numerous court cases.
The shocks are used in “aversive therapy,” an effort to stop autistic and other disabled students from hurting themselves and others. Israel contends the practice is less harmful than the more common treatments such as drugs and isolation.
The Rotenberg Center is the only school in the country that uses electric shock to modify behavior. About 60 percent of the 193 residents of the center are children.
State Sen. Brian A. Joyce, D-Milton, is a longtime critic of the center, which is in his district. Joyce hopes to bring a bill he has co-sponsored to ban aversive therapy to a vote in the Senate before the end of the current session.
“It’s time that we stand up and protect the rights and dignity of our most vulnerable populations,” Joyce said in a statement