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JRC Officials Ignored Watchdog, Destroyed Videos Of Student Shocks
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 23, 2008

CANTON, MASSACHUSETTS--A Massachusetts state Senator is calling for a full investigation to find out why officials at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center ignored instructions from a watchdog agency and destroyed videotapes of two residents being zapped dozens of times as part of a prank.

The tapes reportedly showed how staff at the home operated by JRC took the teenagers from their beds at 2:00 in the morning of August 26, then delivered electrical shocks 77 times to one resident and 29 times to another over the next three hours. The teens were told they were receiving the two-second skin shocks, which have been described as a "hard pinch" or a "bee sting", because of misbehaviors during the dinner hour the previous evening. The staff said they were following instructions given over the phone by an administrator. The caller did not say what the alleged behaviors were, and the staff did not further ask why the punishments were to be given.

The father of the teen that was zapped 77 times told the Boston Globe his son had gone 10 months without any shocks. The young victim reportedly told staff they were violating his treatment protocol and asked them to double check to see if the phone call were a hoax. At one point, he took batteries out of the device, which delivers the shocks through electrodes attached to the skin. So staff strapped him down to a 4-point board to deliver the rest of the shocks.

At one point, as staff repeatedly gave him the highest level of electrical shock, he said, "Mister, I can't breathe."

The caller turned out to be a former resident who had run away from JRC.

Last week, the Disabled Persons Protection Commission issued a report based on its examination of the incident. One investigator said that when she asked for a copy of the tapes, JRC officials refused, telling her that they "did not want any possibility of the images getting into the media."

JRC officials have since said they believed the investigations were over, so there was no need to keep the video.

Massachusetts Senator Brian A. Joyce said he plans to ask the state attorney general's office to investigate.

"I believe the tape was intentionally destroyed because it was incriminating," he told the Globe.

JRC, known previously as the Behavior Research Institute, is believed to be the only facility in the country allowed to inflict pain and discomfort to punish children and youths with disabilities. It houses about 250 students with intellectual, psychiatric and other disabilities -- most of which are sent by school districts in other states and the District of Columbia. Many of them wear the shock devices, which allow staff to use remotes to zap the students.

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a proposal that would not ban the use of aversive skin shocks at JRC, but would limit their use.

"Report says shock tapes destroyed against order" (Boston Globe)
"Parent details toll taken by shocks at group home" (Boston Globe)
"Judge Rotenberg Center -- Facility Uses Electric Shock To Change Behavior" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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