Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) has filed a report and urgent appeal with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture alleging that the Judge Rotenberg Center for the disabled, located in Massachusetts, violates the UN Convention against Torture.
The rights group submitted their report this week, titled “Torture not Treatment: Electric Shock and Long-Term Restraint in the United States on Children and Adults with Disabilities at the Judge Rotenberg Center,” after an in-depth investigation revealed use of restraint boards, isolation, food deprivation and electric shocks in efforts to control the behaviors of its disabled and emotionally troubled students.
Findings in the MDRI report include the center’s practice of subjecting children to electric shocks on the legs, arms, soles of feet and torso — in many cases for years — as well as some for more than a decade. Electronic shocks are administered by remote-controlled packs attached to a child’s back called a Graduated Electronic Decelerators (GEI).
The disabilities group notes that stun guns typically deliver three to four milliamps per shock. GEI packs, meanwhile, shock students with 45 milliamps — more than ten times the amperage of a typical stun gun.
A former employee of the center told an investigator, “When you start working there, they show you this video which says the shock is ‘like a bee sting’ and that it does not really hurt the kids. One kid, you could smell the flesh burning, he had so many shocks. These kids are under constant fear, 24/7. They sleep with them on, eat with them on. It made me sick and I could not sleep. I prayed to God someone would help these kids.”
Noting that it believes United States law fails to provide needed protections to children and adults with disabilities, MDRI calls for the immediate end to the use of electric shock and long-term restraints as a form of behavior modification or treatment and a ban on the infliction of severe pain for so-called therapeutic purposes.
“Torture as treatment should be banned and prosecuted under criminal law,” the report states.
The U.S. Department of Justice opened a “routine investigation” of the center in February of this year in response to a September 2009 letter signed by 31 disability organizations claiming that the center violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.