Judge Rotenberg Center: One Patients StoryThe Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is a controversial treatment facility right here in my home state of Massachusetts that uses a form of electroshock therapy in order to “treat” developmentally disabled teens and adults in its care. It’s one-of-a-kind in the nation for its aggressive use of shock therapy — ala B.F. skinner and rats from the 1960s.

Last month, the Center received a warning letter about the continued unauthorized use of “adulterated” shock devices, called GEDs (for Graduated Electronic Decelerators). The Center is the only treatment facility in the country that uses these self-manufactured devices.

They were approved for their intended use by the FDA in 1995. However, since at least 2008, the Center has been using revised versions of these devices — GED3A and GED4 — that deliver higher electrical charges. The FDA has told the Center — repeatedly — that these new versions need to undergo additional testing to demonstrate their safety (especially a concern, given the higher voltage levels the devices reportedly deliver).

And yet, for over four years, the Center has simply ignored the FDA and continues to use the devices — against the FDA’s rules and directives.

Meanwhile, patients in the Center’s care continue — every day — to be shocked against their will. Here is one patient’s story.

12 Comments to
Judge Rotenberg Center: One Patient’s Story

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  1. For every letter condemning the practices, there will be ten more singing its praises. I’ve read letters from ex-”students” who are in favor of the treatment. I worked there *briefly* because what I saw in practice simply did not seem ethical. The treatment was misrepresented in training, and they don’t tell you about the burns, and the minor behaviors for which people are shocked. I was under the impression it was used only for aggression and self-injurious behavior. But in reality, people are shocked for anything and everything. Literally, if certain students look at you the wrong way, they are shocked. There’s a time limit for a glance, and longer than a glance, and this person will get a shock. Incontinence, autistic behaviors such as perseverating are labelled “nagging” and they’re shocked for that as well. Standing, sitting, raising their hand, talking, stoping work, you name it, they’ll shock you for it. I read letters from people saying JRC saved their life, or their child’s life. And to this day, even though I worked there many years ago, I still feel conflicted. Is it possible that overall, it is beneficial for some and not others? There are some people who are helped by nothing else. They bite their tongue out, prolapse their intestines, bang their head to the point of near death. Maybe with JRC’s obvious flaws, overall, the benefit outweighs the good for a segment of their population. I’m not sure any one person has the answers for all of the souls that reside there. Maybe the answer is different for everybody.

    • Stockhome Syndrome is a powerful thing. If you are made to believe that you were bad, and needed to be changed, you will accept any means of changing you.

  2. The problem is not with the devices, they do not burn unlkess mis-used and can not cause nerve damage. I have used the GED3 and GED4 on myself for testing. The peoblem is the people hired to take care of the students do not really understand how to use the machine. Better training and understanding would solve the problems. Anne is correct is stating if not for these devices some children would end up being warehoused and loaded up on drugs so bad they do not even know their parents. This should not be stopped but improved upon. I also am a past JRC employee of 3 years and was laid off do to all the legal bills that had to be paid. The student is the story is emblishing his story with non truths. The GED1 can not burn there is not enough voltage and current avaible and the time of the shock is to short,

    • I’ve seen the burns with my own eyes. It most certainly can happen.

    • Really classy there, accusing a torture survivor of making stuff up. I guess all the legal fees that this place has gotten smacked with (off the top of my head, I’m counting five lawsuits by survivors over mistreatment, all of which resulted in settlements or jury verdicts in the plaintiffs’ favors, and going back to the 1980′s) have been a lot of people exaggerating then.

      You get a situation like this, where people have such power over other human beings, and where the philosophy behind the practices says that some level of pain is necessary and good, and no amount of training in the world is going to prevent these kinds of things from happening. It’s like the hybrid between the Milgram experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment, with exactly the kind of results one might expect from that.

    • CET, as someone who has studied the reputation and methods of JRC pretty extensively, this story is entirely congruent with much of the information out there. To what purpose would someone “embellish” their story with untruths? I am utterly sure that there are hundreds of JRC students past and present who have suffered the same thing. You can’t hide this stuff or cover it up forever, although JRC seems to think they can.

  3. Torture is torture and should not happen to anyone. There are other ways to help kids and adults who have self-harm problems. If what they do is so positive, why are they so secretive? Why does everything happen behind closed doors and why are the kids prohibited from access to the outside world? Why hasn’t the JRC submitted evidence-based research on the success of their so-called treatment? Why was the mother of a student there denied access to the video of her child being shocked? Why did M. Israel destroy other videos? If its a good thing, it should be done out in the open, while of course respecting the privacy of the students.

    I am thankful to Dr. Grohol for highlighting the abuse which happens there. I joined other activists at the FDA during their meeting with the JRC. I also appreciate the comments of people who have first-hand experience. I suggest that you write up your experience and make yourself known to Senator Joyce or Occupy JRC or Autistic Hoya or myself or others so that you can present your experiences and opinions in an open forum and there can be a transparent and free discussion of the the truth about what happens there.

  4. With all the research and articles on these GEDs, please tell me what good they do? We hear of the horrible after effects, where is the data to show the benefits. This whole facility should be shut down. Disabled people are not lab rats. They are our children, parents, siblings, and friends. This whole situation is appalling! All funding should be pulled from this facility. God help the patients there at the facility, and GOD help the staff that administers or approves of such torture! Remember….what goes around comes back around 20 fold.

  5. I’ve read all the comments above, and wanted to share my view.
    1st. Anyone that hasn’t worked for JRC and seen the in’s and outs of how things are done have no right to even voice a comment. The GED’s arent high enough in voltage to burn. So for the record, that student is flat out lying. I have tried them on myself and can tell you, yes there is a discomfort from the small shock you get, but thats the point. If people want to say the straps and buckles that hold the electrodes in place are uncomfortable, then yes I agree. As someone stated above some of these kids would be dead if not on the program. It does need to be tweaked, i agree.The biggest challenge is the human factor as far as staffing goes. you have to make a judgement call when to use it and when not too.It is flawed. I worked with these students first hand at jrc for 3 years, I can tell you for some students its night and day when the are wearing the GED system. So before you judge and condemn us in the eyes of God know what your talking about

    • I’m sorry, would a person have to trepanation before they could comment on it? Does a surgeon have to undergo surgery herself before she can talk about the values of various surgical procedures??

      These kinds of arguments that start off with, “Unless you’ve experienced or worked with it, you have no idea…” are always used to justify some procedure or “treatment” that is far outside the norm. If GEDs are so successful and safe, why is the JRC the only facility in the country that uses them on this population?? It makes no sense…

  6. Yes, it would be nice to close the JRC down due to horrible treatment. It should not stay opened in MA at all. Thanks,

    Valerie Klaassen

  7. This is appalling! I live in the Midwest and have recently become aware of the Judge Rotenberg School through a petition on Change.org. I am horrified by the practices of this school. I work with autistic and developmentally disabled people at my job and I cannot imagine how anyone could justify treating any disabled person in this way. I am going to write to the governor of Massachusetts. Beyond this, does anyone have any ideas about how to effectively stop the torture, traumatizition and abuse of these people?

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