What if I told you that there was a place in the United States where children and adults were subjected to punishments for bad behavior, including but not limited to electronic skin shocks? Would you believe me? What if I went further and told you that these ‘patients’ were receiving this treatment with the consent of their parents or guardians AND the permission of a court? Would your first thought be that that could not possibly be happening here and now?
It sounds like something the torturous Dr. Mengele would have thought of as a new ‘treatment’ to try on his patients in Auschwitz. Unfortunately, it is happening at a very real place here in the US called the Judge Rotenberg Center. It is located in Canton, Massachusetts and calls itself a ‘special needs school’. In this ‘school’, children and adults who fall into the center's description of “emotionally disturbed students with conduct, behavior, emotional, and/or psychiatric problems and developmentally delayed students with autistic-like behaviors” (Quote taken from http://www.judgerc.org/) are educated and ‘treated’ for their problems.
The students are under video surveillance 24 hours a day, even in the shower or when using the bathroom. They are submitted to an aversion/ rewards behavioral modification program which is designed to counteract unwanted behavior, such as aggression, or even trivialities such as yelling. For the most reluctant students, the aversion therapy includes things such as movement limitation, withholding of food, seclusion, and- brace yourselves- electronic skin shocks.
When I first heard about the center a few days ago, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I was truly taken aback and disturbed, not really believing that this could be true. I began researching the center, but their website was not working. Today, it is up and running. Every single claim I have read in the media is true! At this place of horrors, children walk around with electrodes on their bodies and a box that can administer an electric shock strapped around their waists. The employees of the center have a little remote for each of these students and- at the push of a button- can send an electric shock through the child’s body.
How is this possible? As I am writing this, the tears are welling up in my eyes. Electric shocks are considered a form of torture and cannot legally be administered to anyone under normal circumstances. Yet, this center, which used to be known as the Behavior Research Institute, has found a way to legally torture disabled human beings. They searched for the most desperate group of people- the parents of mentally disabled and autistic children and adults- and convinced them that their methods could help their children.
After discovering what goes on at this center, the UN contacted the US government in 2010, urging them to stop the madness. The methods the center uses are not accepted anywhere in the scientific community. Yet, the torture continues.
Parents and employees of the center point to their treatment success in some of the students, claiming that their methods work. First of all, I do not believe that the methods truly do work. They probably install so much fear in the children and adults that their behavior is temporarily modified. However, that does not in any way mean that they have been 'cured'. Secondly, it is torture. There can never, under any circumstances, be any justification of torture. Especially not when there are children involved. And in no case when the people suffering are unable to speak out for themselves because they are handicapped.
These people need our protection! We must put an end to this place now!!! Throughout the years, the center has come under attack from different sources. Yet somehow, it is still running. The founder Dr. Matthew Israel was forced to retire in May of this year after being charged in connection with the abuse of several students enrolled in his center in 2007. Still, the center is open for business and enrolling students.
If you are doubting my accounts of this place, please just take a minute to Google it. Or go to their website and click on the second headline ‘Photographs submitted to the Guardian by Rick Friedman’ http://www.judgerc.org/. Or read the report ‘Observations and Findings of Out-of-State Program Visitation Judge Rotenberg Educational Center’.
Personally, I wasn’t able to use a shock collar on the dog we were trying to train. Even after the reassurance of the trainer we were working with, my husband and I felt as though we were breaking our dog’s spirit. In no way would I ever subject another human being to such methods.
Please, take a minute to email your senator. To find their contact info, please click here. Tell them that such methods of torture are not acceptable, especially when children and handicapped people are concerned. Sign the online petition. We must help these people- they have nobody else to speak up for them. Make your voices heard!!!