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Massachusetts Lawmakers Consider Limits On JRC Skin Shocks
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 16, 2008

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--Massachusetts lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday over a proposal that would not ban the use of aversive skin shocks at Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, but would limit their use.

According to the Boston Globe, the proposal was a compromise presented by advocates that oppose the use of the painful shocks to punish students at the privately run facility. The bill would prevent staff at JRC from zapping students for such things as swearing, getting out of their seats, or raising their hands too often in class. Instead, the measure would allow the two-second skin shocks only to prevent students from hurting themselves or others.

"We have left hundreds of children in our community vulnerable to what I consider barbaric treatment," said state Senator Brian Joyce. "For me, it is a human rights issue."

JRC is reportedly the only facility in the country that uses an electrical device to deliver a jolt, described as a pinch or bee sting, to youths with intellectual, psychiatric or behavioral disabilities. About 145 of the 240 students at the facility reportedly have behavior plans that call using the devices.

Critics have tried for years to shut the facility down, or at least to prevent it from using pain, discomfort, and food deprivation to change behavior. They point out that the electrical devices leave burns on the students' skin and that they can, and have been, misused.

Last month, state investigators released a report showing that one night last August staff members at a home operated by JRC followed instructions from a phone caller by pulling two teenagers out of their beds and delivering shocks 77 times to one and 29 times to another. One of those youths had been strapped to a 4-point board during the incident.

The staff later realized that the calls were part of a hoax. It turned out that the caller was a former resident who had run away from JRC and knew the residents and the layout of the building. He posed as an administrator, saying the teens were to be punished for behavior that allegedly took place during the dinner hour earlier that night.

Massachusetts lawmakers have failed twice in the past to close the facility. A number of states that used to send students to JRC no longer do so.

About a dozen parents of students at the facility testified alongside JRC founder and executive director Matthew Israel in support of allowing staff to continue shocking students for such things as failing to finish a task or, in the case of one student, bringing her hand near her head. Israel said that moving her hand near her head could be an antecedent, or starting behavior, that could lead to her pulling her hair out.

One of those testifying on behalf of Israel and JRC was Eddie Sanchez from the Bronx, New York. Sanchez's 31-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with autism and mental retardation, is a long-time resident of JRC. Sanchez's brother, Jeffrey, is a Massachusetts state Representative from Boston.

"Showdown over shock therapy" (Boston Globe)
"Judge Rotenberg Center -- Facility Uses Electric Shock To Change Behavior" (Inclusion Daily Express)

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