Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Judge Rotenberg Center Investigated

cannons
Cannons on display in Sharpsburg, Maryland.


In response to a joint letter from disability rights organizations, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation of the Judge Rotenberg Center, a Massachusetts institution that is infamous for its use of electric shock and other practices widely condemned by disability and human rights advocates. Many efforts have been made to shut the place down under state law, but without success. Now that the "big guns" of a Federal civil rights investigation have been brought out, maybe we'll finally get somewhere; I'm cautiously optimistic.

More articles about the Judge Rotenberg Center investigation can be found at the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, Mother Jones, WWJ Newsradio 950, WHDH Channel 7, Left Brain/Right Brain, Fox News Boston, WTOV Channel 9, UPI, the Washington Post, the Denver Post, KSTP Channel 5, the Keene Sentinel, Autist's Corner, and Disability Rights Oregon.

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20 Comments:

  • I just finished reading the joint letter and I couldn't help but be astonished at this quote:
    "a consequence for pulling a fire alarm is to receive 5 GED [shocks], over a 10-minute period, while being restrained on a four-point board."
    WTF? With this in mind, I would rather go to prison than the JRC. I'd have better protection for my human rights there.

    By Blogger Sadderbutwisergirl, at 3:38 PM  

  • We might do better to have the IRS investigate them. It worked on Al Capone!


    (Does anyone else ever get the feeling that they're been presented with the very same word verifications before?)

    By Blogger Clay, at 5:54 PM  

  • JRC has a big war chest. One of their tax forms recently showed a few million dollars in legal fees to fend off legislation.

    It will be a big fight.

    By Blogger Sullivan, at 6:23 PM  

  • @Clay: I'm just curious, but for what reason would the IRS investigate the JRC? I don't mean to be aggressive, but I'm wondering why the IRS would be brought in because they deal with taxes.
    @Sullivan: No wonder they have so much money. They accept anyone, no matter what "functioning level" they are, and do whatever they can to keep them there.

    By Blogger Sadderbutwisergirl, at 7:03 PM  

  • Nobody has a bigger warchest than the government. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    Joe

    By Blogger Club 166, at 7:13 PM  

  • @ SBWG - I think an audit by the IRS would cause JRC's accountants to really scramble, maybe have a stroke. Companies don't like IRS investigations.

    By Blogger Clay, at 7:54 PM  

  • @Clay: I do realize that being audited by the IRS is never good. However, there must be a legal reason to have them audited. You can't just have someone audited because you want them audited.

    By Blogger Sadderbutwisergirl, at 8:31 PM  

  • Well, I think that they can decide to audit anyone they like, and they even do it on a random basis. The suspicion of dodgy business practices is good reason.

    By Blogger Clay, at 8:40 PM  

  • Sadder, the way the laws and the courts were back when Al Capone was alive, he hadn't committed any Federal crimes for which there was enough evidence to convict him. He and his men had murdered, stolen, extorted, etc., but those were and are not Federal crimes, and the local jurisdiction (Illinois in general and Chicago in particular) was so corrupt that Al was unlikely to be held to answer for any of those crimes.

    Everybody knew he was a bad'un. One of the Feds thought to ask, has he reported and paid taxes on all of his income? It turned out he had not done so. That was the only thing the Feds could prove he'd done wrong under Federal law, so they got him for that and sent him to prison.

    It was widely suspected that he'd done all sorts of horrific crimes, but that was the only one which could be proved he'd done.

    That's how prosecution works.

    By Blogger Justthisguy, at 2:26 AM  

  • Umm, I mean, "those were, and are, not Federal crimes." Sorry about leaving out the commas. Maybe I should eat, shoot, and leave....

    (That's a punctuation joke, referring to the book "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.")

    Do not let any armed pandas into your restaurant!

    By Blogger Justthisguy, at 2:37 AM  

  • Yes, I hope, sincerly hope that they are shut down for good. Yet, I wonder above everything else-how they could even be in business. Meaning, HOW could anyone place a loved one in their care? They wouldn't be in operation if people weren't sent there. That in itself is more horrifying than anything.

    By Blogger kathleen, at 10:00 AM  

  • Kathleen, I can say how people end up at JRC (as they prefer to be called, Rottenberg having a bad aroma...). My son set a fire in our house; during repairs he was in temporary living arrangements because there were no emergency respite placements available. An agency we were working with decided to involve Children's Services, thinking they could help. Children's Services did not help, but filed a "neglect" report against us, and mandates that our son be placed in a residential program... meanwhile, repairs finished, son back home. . . but home is "unsafe." There are no residential openings i New York State - and, seemingly, none in the Eastern US, for a child who is institutionally defined as a fire-starter. EXCEPT Judge Rottenberg - which sent sales reps to our house, sent videos... the process was akin to buying a vacation time-share. The aversives are downplayed; what they really sell is this "reward" area that reminded me of Donkey Island in Disney's Pinocchio, or a Chuck E Cheese. Egads. My son did not go... but that's another story. I can understand how some would end up placing their children there.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:32 PM  

  • @Anonymous: I am familiar with the "reward area" you're talking about. It's called the Yellow Brick Road in reference to The Wizard of Oz. I showed my younger brother the page on the JRC's website and told him that it was the reward area of a school. He thought it looked awesome and asked, "What school is this at? This makes me wish I was there!" When I told him it was the JRC, he couldn't believe it until I removed all the superfluous URL stuff from the Internet address bar, leaving only that needed for the homepage, and then hit the Enter key. Then he said to me, "Holy shit!" By the way, the island in Pinocchio where everyone turns into donkeys is called Pleasure Island.
    @abfh: This may be off-topic here, but you asked me to let you know about this. I created a boycott list and an open thread for suggestions.

    By Blogger Sadderbutwisergirl, at 7:02 PM  

  • Just today I recieved a brochure from Amnesty International asking me for a donation to help them fight evil torturers in backward countries. I thought "Oh @#$% you Amnesty International, I've never seen any evidence of any interest in what is going on at the JRC, and my emails asking about this got no reply." Then I screwed up the brochure and threw it in the bin.

    Have they ever shown any interest in the JRC?

    By Blogger Lili Marlene, at 6:19 AM  

  • @Lili Marlene,

    I don't know whether Amnesty International has ever tried to do anything about the JRC in the past, but I do know that they were one of the organizations the joint letter was sent to.

    Left Brain/Right Brain has the text of a more recent letter describing the responses to the previous joint letter; here is what it says about Amnesty International:

    "None of the other government or human rights organizations that were recipients of the letter have so far been willing or able to take action - Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights had other priorities; Amnesty International is seeking guidance through their international headquarters in London but, as has been our experience in the past, they have shown little interest."

    (Boldface text is mine)

    By Blogger Lindsay, at 1:56 AM  

  • Thanks for the info, Lindsay.

    I wonder, is there anything like the JRC going on in Australia? I do hope there isn't. I don't myself have a lot to do with the world of disability in Australia, as I don't know anyone offline who is officially disabled. Is the US the worst developed nation when it comes to aversives? If so, why?

    And Amnesty International have given me the best excuse to ignore their solicitations. They make it too easy.

    By Blogger Lili Marlene, at 3:35 AM  

  • What is the alternative to skin shock is everthing else fails (repeatedly) and the person is causing themselves great bodily injury?
    Try googling autism self injury on you tube and see a case where a skin shock therapy when the person was younger, saved his life. It was used, as it should be, only temporarily, but it stopped about 29,000 punches to the head so that during that non punching time, the parents and professionals could breathe long enough to even look at other things to do. Obviously, people don't understand complex severe cases of self abuse or you wouldn't be so ignorant in saying it's never okay. It's not ok to allow people to continue to mutilate themselves while idiots keep introducing ineffective therapies. Duh

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:52 PM  

  • Anonymous, I find it strange that you don't see the irony in abusing kids to prevent "self abuse." This sort of treatment isn't even meted out to death row inmates, but it is somehow acceptable to torture helpless kids with disabilities. The ends definitely do not justify the means in this case. It totally disgusts me that anyone thinks it's OK to commit such abuse against anyone, but it seems that so many approve of such abuse as long as it's used against "those people." This is dehumanization at its worst.

    @Lili Marlene: There is something seriously wrong Amnesty International when they claim they want to fight human rights abuse when they ignore the exact same thing happening in their own back yard, so to speak. I guess even AI doesn't care when it comes to "those people."

    By Blogger Fbug01, at 1:35 PM  

  • Ha ha haha! I was walking down the road recently in a shopping area and what did I see? A couple of young people promoting Amnesty International to passersby. One came up to me and asked "Can I ask you a question?" I replied "I'd like to ask YOU a question ......" I hope that nice young man didn't mind recieving a lecture from me about the Judge Rotenberg Center instead of a donation. Poor guy didn't see THAT coming ......

    By Blogger Lili Marlene, at 5:26 AM  

  • Mr Anonymous wrote:
    "Try googling autism self injury on you tube and see a case where a skin shock therapy when the person was younger, saved his life. It was used, as it should be, only temporarily, but it stopped about 29,000 punches to the head so that during that non punching time, the parents and professionals could breathe long enough to even look at other things to do. Obviously, people don't understand complex severe cases of self abuse or you wouldn't be so ignorant in saying it's never okay. It's not ok to allow people to continue to mutilate themselves while idiots keep introducing ineffective therapies. Duh."

    If I had a child who was self-mutilating or hitting themself very intensively, I wouldn't be wondering "How can I cure or treat my child's autism?". I would instead be wondering "What rare syndrome does my child have, where can I go to get a proper diagnosis from a geneticist or specialist in rare syndromes, is there any treatment or cure, and is it genetic?" If a child's mind is a dysfunctional mess due to some deletion of genes that make some essential protein or enzyme, electric shocks obviously wouldn't be the most sensible way to approach the problem. Duh.

    By Blogger Lili Marlene, at 5:56 AM  

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