Critics Step Up Bid to Stop US School Torturing Children

The Judge Rotenberg Center has been torturing young people with special needs for years. It is the only known school that electrocutes children and young adults with special needs to control them.

For nearly three decades the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, has been electrocuting special needs children with an electric shock machine known as a GED (Graduated Electronic Decelerator). The children are forced to carry the torture devices in their backpacks. The GEDs deliver charges of up to 41 milliamps, roughly 10 times the amperage used in most stun guns. The children are shocked on their legs, arms, hands, feet, fingers and torsos by electrodes attached to their skin.

The electric shocks are controlled remotely and are intended to cause pain to discourage unwanted behavior in the children. The Judge Rotenberg Center calls the torture “aversive therapy” and uses electric torture on 47 of its 275 students. “In each case the use of shocks has to be approved by a Massachusetts probate and family court.” These students, along with other students not approved for shocks, are subject to other torture tactics and punishment, such as food deprivation.

In 2013 Juan Mendez, the UN’s former special rapporteur on torture, released a report that concluded the “rights of students of the JRC subjected to electric shocks and physical means of restraints have been violated under the UN convention against torture.”

The idea to start electrocuting children was dreamt up by a psychologist after he read the science fiction novel Walden Two. The book describes a community where positive behavior is encouraged and negative behavior thwarted.

From there they started applying “aversives” on vulnerable children in 1971. Initially spanking with spatulas, pouring water on the children and pinching them. But in the early 90s they switched to electric shocks.

In 2012, video footage was released showing a student being shocked 31 times over seven hours and strapped face down on a board. He is screaming, “that hurts, that hurts” as the electric shock device activates burning his skin.

The FDA said shocks can induce “significant psychological and physical risks… including depression, anxiety, worsening of self-injury behaviors and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, pain, burns and tissue damage.” The agency has not followed up on proposals to ban the practice.

Disability groups are almost universally against these techniques of cruel and unusual punishment.



Image Adapted from: “Child Anatomy” by tiffany terry is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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