4 Things You Should Know About the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC)
Children and adults are being tortured at JRC every day. It is the only facility that we know of that admits to using electric shock to cause pain and fear of future pain in order to control people’s behavior. It uses other aversives to instill terror and suffering as well, and strict “reward-based” behavior plans designed to maximize coercion and control. JRC justifies these things by saying that it is focused on preventing people from hurting themselves and others, but former staff report shocks are also used to address things like slouching.Video of the shocks show people screaming, jerking, writhing, begging, and trying to get away. The United States military would not be allowed to do this to enemy combatants. It would not be allowed for people convicted of horrific crimes. If Syria or North Korea were torturing people this way we would be horrified. But it is happening in the United States with the approval of the federal government and at taxpayer expense.Last September ADAPT visited the Department of Health and Human Services to ask, “Would you do this to your grandchildren?” “Of course not,” said the Assistant Secretary who came out to talk to protesters. But it is happening to other people’s grandchildren simply because they are disabled.
Even for the most dangerous things JRC residents do, there are better options. Institutional cheerleaders will tell you JRC is a last resort, but many people have limited or access to the kind of supports that would help them to live happy and healthy lives in their own communities.Even other behaviorists have moved on. In the 1990s behavioral therapists were being trained to use aversives as a matter of course. But the field determined that reward-based efforts are more effective in controlling behavior, and JRC is now an aberration even in a field that has come under attack from survivors.Gentle, trauma-informed support that does not get in the face of suffering people and make things harder works — but not everybody wants to put the resources into providing it. For example, New York funds far more spaces at JRC than any other state; this isn’t because New Yorkers with developmental disabilities are different from people with development disabilities who come from New Jersey, but because New York would rather send people far from their loved ones and let them be tortured than provide quality services at home.
In 2014 the FDA began the process of stopping the electric shocks, and at least by 2016 they had regulations drafted saying that this torture is completely unacceptable, but they have dragged their feet on actually issuing the regulations.Over and over, self-advocates, advocates and activists from the disability rights community as well as civil rights and human rights supporters worldwide have called on JRC and the FDA to stop the shocks, and over and over the torture has continued.Enough is enough!
You can help! Call the FDA, your state and federal legislators and ask to #StopTheShock!