Washington, DC — May 26, 2011 — Today, we can celebrate a small victory. The director of the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) of Massachusetts, which uses electric shocks to punish children and young adults with disabilities, has resigned in the face of criminal charges. Disability Rights International documented the use of electric shock and long-term restraints at this facility in our report Torture not Treatment published last year.
Matthew Israel, founder and director of JRC, was charged with misleading a grand jury and destroying evidence in relation to an incident in 2007 in which a prank phone call to the center from a person posing as an employee led to two children with disabilities being given dozens of electrical shocks for absolutely no reason. One of these children was restrained and given 77 shocks over three hours.
Yesterday, Israel accepted a court settlement which requires him to resign as director, and sentences him to five years of probation. “We believe that Dr. Israel created a system and environment at the JRC that failed to prevent a lapse of this magnitude,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, “Dr. Israel then attempted to destroy evidence of the events and mislead investigators, and that conduct led to his indictments.”
See full coverage of his indictment on ABC Nightline. The Nightline story highlights the sad but inspiring story of a former resident
who managed to escape from the center
after years of shock and restraint.
Last year, Disability Rights International filed an urgent appeal with the United Nations insisting that the practices at JRC are torture. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture agreed. The US Justice Department is also now investigating the center. Regardless, Israel has continued to shock children for behaviors as mild as speaking without permission.
We see Israel’s departure as an opportunity to end the abusive practice of using electric shock as treatment for people with disabilities at JRC once and for all. Israel was the creator and staunchest defender of this theory of behavior control. We cannot allow another person like Israel to be behind the switch at JRC and continue to subject children to torture. It is time for this sick practice to end.
We encourage you to write your concerns to the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. JRC accepts children from around the country, and the torture of children with disabilities is an international concern. Please let your voice be heard. Disability Rights International will continue to work with disability activists, legislators and the media, to keep the pressure on JRC.