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How to Degrade a Human Being at JRC

How to Degrade a Human Being at JRC: Part 1In Massachusetts — supposedly one of the most enlightened and liberal states you can live in in our fine United States — a facility is engaged in a horrifying business. Some have even call it state-sanctioned torture on American soil.

They degrade human beings daily, calling it a form of “treatment.”

They do this regardless of the lack of scientific evidence on the treatment (outside a few flimsy studies published by the facility’s former disgraced director, Matthew Israel). They do it even when important safeguards were lacking for years.

Yes, I’m talking about the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts. And yet another survivor from that institute is speaking out.

The JRC uses “treatment” techniques employed nowhere else in the world. There’s a good reason for that, because some of the treatments used have virtually no research backing and no legitimate use in psychological treatment of disorders, like extreme and severe cases of autism.

Even the United Nations has felt the need to weigh in on what goes on in dingy halls of the JRC, condemning the school’s practices as “torture.”

Shouldn’t a school be a safe and supportive environment for the over 200 students that attend it? For a facility that treats people ages 3 to adult, you’d expect to find overwhelming support for the safety and efficacy of its treatment regiment. Yet, outside of Massachusetts, you’d be very hard-pressed to find any researchers or autism advocates who approve of their treatment measures.

Another Patient’s Voice is Heard

Now, another survivor of the JRC “treatments” is making her voice heard:

The day came when I was transferred to JRC. They brought me to a room where my new case manager coldly went over my new program — no longer kind, like they were during my tour. My new program was so outrageous. I could not understand. I was to wear a diaper! But why?! I had no issues with using the bathroom. I was told because I had a history of smearing. (That happened once). This was the start of the degradation and control and punishment. He also read off a list of “behaviors” I couldn’t do, including things that made no sense and were not bad things to do. I was so overwhelmed.

I was brought to my new classroom: a crisis room covered with mats. I was sat down at a table and forced to do a mundane task of folding the same 5 washcloths over and over for hours at a time. What the hell was going on?! I was in shock. If I stopped, the staff standing right behind my chair would yell in my ear, “No stopping work!” Then direct me, “Work on your task please!” I felt like I was going to burst, and I soon did.

I was restrained inside something they called the “mitt jacket.” It was like a heavy coat with padded arms that were sewn shut at the end, and JRC staff members would sit on you with your face in the ground. This happened every day. Soon they got court approval to put me on the 4 point board instead, while the “monitor” oversaw everything.

It is absolutely disgusting and chilling to read such accounts of inhumane and degrading treatment of a person who simply needs ordinary psychological treatment. Human beings are not animals — you can’t simply assume a behaviorism approach is going to work for everyone, no matter what their specific background, diagnosis or special needs are.

The JRC needs an outside, independent review of its practices, and a critical review of its use of skin electrical shocks (GED treatment). Since no other facility in the United States uses such a barbaric form of “treatment” in the 21st century, hard questions have to be asked about why the JRC continues to do so. Even the FDA is now considering simply banning the devices because they “they present a substantial and unreasonable risk of illness or injury” (that’s putting it mildly!).

Where’s the Research?

Sadly, the advocates for keeping the GED treatments going at JRC don’t even know the facts behind this form of treatment. For instance, this article in The Washington Post claims there are 110 studies that support the safety and efficacy of “skin shock” (the use of electrical shock on the skin by a GED device). It links to a JRC page that lists only a handful of such studies — not 110. In fact, a PsycINFO and Medline search don’t turn up anywhere near 110 studies demonstrating anything of the sort.1

Most tellingly, all of the studies listed at JRC have the discredited Israel listed as the main author or co-author — a clear conflict-of-interest. Authors should not have a direct financial stake in the outcome of an objective, scientific research study.2 Studies showing mixed results aren’t included. And of course, nobody mentions that most published contingent shock studies aren’t even conducted on people — they’re conducted on rats.

It’s time to shut down the electrical shock program at the JRC. Children shouldn’t be shocked into submissive behavior. We’d be aghast to hear it was being in done in a country like Iran or China, so why aren’t we more outraged that it continues to be sanctioned in our own backyard?

Read the full article: JRC Survivor Speaks Out (Part 1)

How to Degrade a Human Being at JRC


  1. Apparently, journalism doesn’t mean the same thing it once did, such as checking simple facts. []
  2. If Israel’s studies had found the devices to be ineffective, would he still have published them? []

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). How to Degrade a Human Being at JRC. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 21 Nov 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.