Tell Massachusetts: No Child Deserves Painful Shock Treatment

  • by: Susan Vaughan
  • target: Massachusetts House of Representatives

"How many times do you have to zap a child before it's torture?" Jennifer Gonnerman asked five years ago. But whatever the number, Judge Rotenberg Center in MA has met the quota many times--often doling out harsh physical punishment to autistic or mentally disabled children

To modify behavior, this special-needs school wires its children to receive repeated electric shocks, a form of punishment not even allowed in US prisons. The center's website says it uses a reward system, along with "optional intensive treatment" if rewards alone are ineffective.

But investigative reports show the treatment is anything but optional. Even though Mother Jones publicized the center's painful methods in 2007, the school managed to stay open. A new, literally shocking video of one child's torture may change this, however.

But closing the school is not enough. This must never happen again in the state of Massachusetts. Support the Massachusetts bill to ban shock "therapy."

We, the undersigned, are horrified over reports of Judge Rotenberg Center's use of electric shock to discipline its children.

To attempt to control already emotionally-stressed children by using methods that further traumatize them is sick and criminal, irregardless of whether or not such methods are successful in controlling their behavior. Certainly torture is not condoned merely because it leads to submissiveness.

Also condemning the schools methods is their lack of necessity. There are many alternative treatment options for children with special needs. According to Dr. Saul Axelrod, a professor at Temple University and an expert on behavior modification, "the field has moved away from painful stimuli because of public outcry and because we've devised better techniques," including determining the cause of an individual's self-abuse (Gonnerman report in MJ 2007).

Perhaps most shocking about this story is that the state of Massachusetts failed to stop the torture years ago, and its court, Bristol County Probate and Family Court, actually authorized shock treatments. Certainly others must be included in taking responsibility for this abuse, along with Rotenberg itself.

This must never happen again in the state of Massachusetts. Support the bill to ban shock therapy today.

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