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Rotenberg Center: Is This Torture or Treatment for Teen?

Rotenberg Center: Is This Torture or Treatment for Teen?After a decade old legal battle, the Judge Rotenberg Center lost its effort to bar the public from viewing how “treatment” is administered at the facility. In this troubling, emotional video, we see then 18-year-old Andre McCollins repeatedly shocked 31 times. His crime? Failure to remove his jacket in a timely manner.

His family has brought a lawsuit against the Center, saying they never expected their teen to be tortured as a form of “treatment.” The Judge Rotenberg Center 8 years ago convinced a judge not to let the public see the video. But during a hearing today, Superior Court Judge Barbara Dortch-Okara refused to bar the local Fox television station from videotaping the recording.

Which means — for the first time ever — the public gets to see the “treatment” used by the Judge Rotenberg Center. I use that term loosely, because in almost any other setting or environment, most ordinary people would call this torture.

Click through to watch the video. But be warned — it is disturbing.

The strange defense offered by Rotenberg Center clinicians is that the “treatment plan was followed.” That is an eerily familiar refrain we heard in the past, when war criminals are brought before courts to answer for crimes against humanity — “I was only following orders.”

McCollins, then 18-years-old, was shocked 31 times that day in 2002. Lawyers for the center and its clinicians say it was part of the treatment he needed to quell his aggressive behavior.

“These are dramatic tapes, there’s no question about that,” said attorney Edward Hinchey, who represents two of the Rotenberg Center’s clinicians. “But the treatment plan at the Rotenberg Center, the treatment plan that Andre had in place on October 25, was followed.”

In other words, even if this is incredibly disturbing and seemingly wrong, it’s okay, because it’s just a part of the teen’s “treatment plan.” I suppose if the treatment plan had also included things like “no food for 3 days at a time” or “waterboarding,” we’d be hearing similar arguments.

While I have no doubt that the Judge Rotenberg Center is a well-meaning treatment center for troubled youth staffed by professionals, its methods are better suited for a different era… like the Middle Ages.

Rotenberg Center: Is This Torture or Treatment for Teen?

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder & CEO of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues -- as well as the intersection of technology and human behavior -- since 1992. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member and treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine. He writes regularly and extensively on mental health concerns, the intersection of technology and psychology, and advocating for greater acceptance of the importance and value of mental health in today's society. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2016). Rotenberg Center: Is This Torture or Treatment for Teen?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 9, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 4 Jun 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Jun 2016
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