Susan's Blog

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is this the United States?

I’m tired of the excuses everybody uses
He’s your kid, do as you see fit.
But get this through that I don’t approve of what you did —
–Natalie Merchant

The Judge Rotenberg Center must be closed. It should never have remained open after the Department of Mental Retardation stopped referring clients there because of its unorthodox treatments. But the Behavioral Research Institute, (now renamed the JRC) took the DMR to court and won.

So now the is JRC is under more critical scrutiny for a horrible sequence of events that left two teenagers with burns on their skin.

“It was a perfect storm of things that went wrong that night,” Ernest Corrigan, a spokesman for the Center told the Boston Gl0be.

I would say that you always take the weather with you. Two teenage boys were tortured by the staff at their JRC group home, because of a prank call that ordered this punishment. The Globe keeps talking about how “no IEPs were checked” before this heinous, barbaric torment began (77 shocks administered to one of the boys, 29 to the other). Implying that if it had been on the IEP, it would have beeon okay?

I’d say that JRC students’ IEPs are checked alright — checked at the door. Along with their civil rights. Is there a justification on earth, a behavior problem so thorny and mystifying, that torture would ever be the solution? Whatever happened to our Constitutional right to be protected against “cruel and unusual punishment?” Does that not extend to the severely autistic or attention deficient?

What I believe is that the people who refer to the JRC and the people who believe in the JRC methods are actually not acting in their clients’ best interests. Not at all. In fact, I would go as far to say that they have all given up on their kids. To say that nothing else “works.” What are the goals? To simply get rid of an undesirable behavior, or to help and teach someone? To understand what is causing the undesirable behavior, or to merely stamp it out?

Doctors, therapists, educators, and parents are supposed to investigate and thoroughly try to analyze difficult behaviors. Bring in more thinkers, really troubleshoot the problem.

How in the world can hurting another human being be the way to teach?


Among the many extremely disturbing things in today’s Globe article, I found the following passage the most upsetting.

“By the time a call was finally placed to the central office and staff members realized their mistake, one teenager had received 77 shocks, well in excess of what his treatment plan allowed, and the other received 29. One boy was taken to the hospital for treatment of two first-degree burns.”

This paragraph was prefaced by statement “staffers, inexperienced and overworked, were described as concerned and reluctant [to deliver the punishments].”

Wow. I’m not qualified to judge, as I have no degree in psychology, medicine, or social work. But as a human being, how can this POSSIBLY be considered acceptable in the modern world?

— added by Don on Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Don, I do not have an advanced degree in psych, medicine, or social work. But I have a PhDE in autism: Parent Has Direct Experience.

— added by Susan Senator on Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 4:02 pm

It is a shame that the state allows them to operate.

The JRC claims that the staff needs training, I think they need to be replaced; starting at the top.

— added by Another Voice on Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 8:42 pm

*Whatever happened to our Constitutional right to be protected against “cruel and unusual punishment?”*

Given recent political changes in the United States, I’d say people don’t really have that right any more, or, rather, if you just say “it’s not really torture,” then that’s okay.

Yes, (some) Americans think torture is okay and justifiable. The high level of corporal punishment and the strong stance for the death penalty and other harsh punishments attest to this. It can be argued that someone with the death penalty “did something” to get it, and there is that argument, but when a country overwhelmingly supports cruel and unusual punishment and its government makes excuses for atrocities and war crimes, what can you expect?

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 8:44 pm

I expect more. And I will fight for better for this country.

— added by Susan Senator on Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 8:54 pm

As a practical matter, the only way to close the place down will be through legislation which targets, one way or another, the use of electrical shock as an adversive therapy.

More legal analysis is needed to see what proposal would be most likely to survive challenges in the courts, but it might an outright ban of the method to mandating licensure requirements at a high level, so that you would have to have a combination of a high level of education — say, a masters — plus a substantial number of hours of training to actually press a button. The cost of having to have masters-level personnel in the facilities 24/7 — and the difficulty of finding them — would certainly put a crimp in the operation.

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 10:03 pm

Wow, that’s disgusting. Torture is the only word that can describe this. I feel so bad for the people subjected to this appalling treatment. How can the people who work there sleep at night? If I met that judge in person, I’d spit in his face, and then I would slug him (and I consider myself a civilized person). How embarrassing for the state of Massachusetts. Yes, where is the ACLU? A black eye for the Boston Globe. It’s a sad day when people feel that the only way to deal with (I mean, help) a fellow human being is to shock/torture them?

— added by MarkZ on Friday, December 21, 2007 at 1:31 pm

What’s the next step? What legislative committees would have oversight over this sort of thing? Who are their chairmen, so that we can write to ask that something be done?

— added by adamg on Friday, December 21, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Hi Adam,
I think the next step is for me to create a petition or letter the way Ari N did of the Autism Self Advocacy Network, when the Ransom Notes campaign was being run. If all of my readers would be willing to sign on, and pass it on, we could have quite a written outcry to present to Governor Patrick and the Board of Ed!

— added by Susan Senator on Friday, December 21, 2007 at 2:24 pm

Torture of a special needs child in JRC’s care is a state, federal, and iternational crime.

What are you doing to make sure this gets before a state and/or federal grand jury?

— added by Anonymous on Friday, December 21, 2007 at 2:26 pm

To understand most JRC staff and their view of GED’s you must understand Stanley Milgram’s famous experiments. People can be made to hurt others and justify their actions by rationalizing thay are just “a cog in the wheel”.

Is it just a coincidence that Dr. Isreal and Dr. Milgram were at Harvard at the same time?

— added by Anonymous on Friday, December 21, 2007 at 2:59 pm

This is terrible.

— added by Paxton on Saturday, December 22, 2007 at 1:18 pm

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