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Matthew Israel, Founder of Judge Rotenberg, Steps Down in Disgrace

Matthew Israel, Founder of Judge Rotenberg, Steps Down in DisgraceWe missed reporting this at the end of May when it happened, but I like to close the loop on stories we’ve discussed in the past, so I thought it relevant to mention here.

We’ve previously detailed how the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Mass. has a “treatment” for out-of-control children where electric shocks are given in order to curb their behavior (ala BF Skinner). We’ve also noted the horror of the incident where a former patient was able to make a single phone call and cause the staff to shock two children in its care over 100 times.

Now, finally, the founder of the school, Matthew Israel, has agreed to step down from the Center in order to avoid prison time. In an agreement reached with the state’s Attorney General, he will be on probation for five years and the Center will be overseen by a court-appointed monitor.

Matthew Israel pleaded not guilty to the charges of obstructing justice by destroying evidence. The evidence he destroyed were copies of videotapes that detailed what happened in August 2007. He claimed, through his lawyer, that he thought the investigation was over and so was just being prudent in destroying the tapes (so they wouldn’t be leaked to the Internet).

Luckily, the state had copies:

Even though prosecutors were ultimately able to find a back-up copy of the destroyed tapes, Cunha said, there was enough evidence that the grand jury indicted Israel Friday on two counts related to misleading a witness and destroying evidence. Cunha said his office ultimately decided to offer Israel a pretrial probation agreement, in which Israel had to permanently end his tenure at the center, which he founded 40 years ago, and serve a five-year probationary term. If he complied, prosecutors would drop the case in five years.

If you’re not clear on what the Center does, here’s a brief description:

Israel’s center endorses an unorthodox behavioral-control method, in which more than half of the center’s 200 students wear electrodes attached to their skin, and staff members, armed with remote devices, can punish them with shocks for deviant behavior. Students generally have severe behavioral problems, including some with autism and intellectual disabilities.

You know, psychologists have found many ways to control behavior in children, but none so barbaric as hooking them up to electrodes and treating them like mindless rats in a Skinner box.

I rarely take pleasure in other people’s misfortune. But for everything, there is an exception, and so I’m tenuously glad the founder of this dreadful “school” was indicted and forced to step down in disgrace as its leader. This is an appropriate end for someone who has seemingly legitimized a “treatment” technique that should’ve went out with the Dark Ages. Modern science can and will do better, and hopefully, “schools” like this will become but an unfortunate historic footnote of history.

Read the article: School founder denies he obstructed justice

Read one blogger’s reaction over at Care2: Matthew Israel, Founder of the “School of Shock” JREC, to Face Criminal Charges

Matthew Israel, Founder of Judge Rotenberg, Steps Down in Disgrace

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). Matthew Israel, Founder of Judge Rotenberg, Steps Down in Disgrace. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 12 Jul 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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