Press Release – Pain and Fear Teach Nothing: An ADAPTer Reflects on the Judge Rotenberg Center


For More Information:
Mike Oxford: (785) 224-3865
Cal Montgomery: (312) 813-6816 (text only)
Priya Penner: (585) 944-3086
Marilee Adamski-Smith: (715) 204-4152

WHO: National ADAPT
WHAT: Pain and Fear Teach Nothing: An ADAPTer Reflects on the Judge Rotenberg Center
WHERE: In front of FDA Director Scott Gottlieb’s house, Pennsylvania Ave NW & L St NW, Washington DC 20037
WHEN: Thursday, March 15, 2018, happening now

Pain and Fear Teach Nothing: An ADAPTer Reflects on the Judge Rotenberg Center

03/15/18 Washington DC – Cal Montgomery, one of the organizers of ADAPT has been at the almost week-long vigil outside FDA director Scott Gottlieb’s Foggy Bottom home. He sat down with us to talk about his feelings as an autistic person, on the treatment other autistic people that reside at the Judge Rotenberg Center. The Rotenberg Center is the reason the disability rights organization ADAPT is living outside Gottlieb’s residence. Their use of electric shock aversives to punish and discipline disabled people has been condemned by all major disability-led organizations and cited as torture by the United Nations.

“When I was institutionalized, I dealt with other people making all my decisions for me and controlling my access to everything that mattered to me – food, water, sleep, hygiene, other people – as a way of manipulating my behavior. I see that happening at Rotenberg and it’s hard enough. But the fact that people can be just going about their business and be shocked out of the blue is especially outrageous,” said Montgomery. “When I was in the institution and they wanted to control my severe head-banging I could see them coming, I had an understanding of what was going to happen, and at least it was in response to something I actually did. At the JRC it can come as a complete surprise and it can be in response to something trivial.”

“I’ve been free for 26 years. My experience in the institution had nothing to do with my ability to live well. I’ve been able to learn other ways to cope with overwhelming situations, and I have the control not to put myself in positions I can’t handle being in, in the first place. I’ve known other people who never have completely stopped being aggressive against themselves and others, but who with good-quality supports have nonetheless had safe, happy and healthy lives as contributing members of their communities. The idea that taking people away from their loved ones and inflicting pain and fear will teach them to get along in the world is absurd.”

Cal and other ADAPTers have been trying to end the abuses of the JRC and to get regulations that would ban the devices finalized for at least two years and many have been trying for longer than that. The Regulations that they want the FDA to release have been finished for two years. Two administrations have sat on them while disabled children and adults are being tortured at the JRC. “The FDA’s job is to protect Americans from harmful practices in the name of medicine, and if torture doesn’t count, I don’t know what does,” said Montgomery. “We will not stop fighting the JRC until the barbaric practices of this institution are ended once and for all.”

For decades ADAPT has worked to secure for disabled Americans the same rights and liberties enjoyed by their nondisabled neighbors. Learn more about ADAPT’s history and activities at, on social media with the NationalADAPT Facebook page and on the @NationalADAPT Twitter, and under the hashtag #ADAPTandRESIST. You can also follow the fight against the JRC shock device at and #StopTheShock.