The Judge Rotenberg Center is under investigation for child torture. Again.
Meet Susan Donovan, an ex-worker who saw a 12 year old autistic girl waste away to a “bag of bones” under a harsh dietary regime imposed by the Judge Rotenberg Center for troubled kids. (Boston Herald.)
The decision should come early this week. I’d like to take this opportunity to rant, hector, and lecture discursively, then we’ll get on with the story, if that works for you.
Ever wonder what kind of monster develops methods of torture? Ever work in a mental health agency? Social work, that noble profession. I am a witness, and want you to see what I've seen.
"We don't do this to prisoners in the criminal justice system, so we shouldn't be doing it to people with disabilities," said Leo Sarkissian, executive director of the ARC of Massachusetts, an advocacy group for people with mental retardation.
It's not always easy to find out what goes on. I've been well into the hiring process at half a dozen schools and shelters before I was introduced to techniques beyond the bounds of human decency.
They're called "Behavioral Intervention Plans" (BIPS) or ABI's for "Aversive Behavioral Interventions"; in other words punishment disguised in doublespeak as "negative consequences for undesired behavior."
The prospective agents who will serve those punishments are interns, volunteers and paid attendants. I choose to believe these agents have no idea what they're signing on for, and will direct my comments toward that cockeyed hope.
I know what it's like to be gobsmacked by galling papers thrust at me, documents that say nothing about the worker's will to engage in these controversial practices, no, that question is not and cannot be on the table, because too many people would stand up and walk out.
What's on the table is an agreement to refrain from using undefined methods of intervention until trained and certified by the hiring agency.
No problem, right, of course I agree not to do tasks before I'm trained for them (red flag! red flag!) of course that sounds like standard operating procedure (it is, red flag, no need for signing papers!) sure I'll sign and date it, no dealer with the devil, me, fresh-scrubbed idealistic social work intern.
Of course you can always quit once you've been hired and see what's expected of you, and many people do, like our blessed whistle-blower pictured above.
But why is this information concealed, wouldn't you want to know if your job entailed acts of invasive, punishing corrections on small disabled people? Why isn't your actual job description transparent at the outset? Before your will has been kneaded incrementally, your moral goalposts moved til what was once beyond conception has become run of the mill.
People can be made to adapt to all kinds of things. I don't blame young, hungry, inexperienced and eager nursing or human service students for getting snared in these torture chambers. I do want them to notice how they become willing aggressors. It is a process. You are being handled. Maybe it begins with an application that takes hours to fill out, you sit in a room by yourself, reading and writing, then watch a video to "get familiar" with the institution, while having no access to what's going on outside that room, your impression tightly controlled. Red flag? Only notice.
The agreement to harm will be called "therapy", and in my experience always saved for the final step in the hiring process, when I am mind-numbingly tired, thirsty, sensory deprived and relieved to be almost done, all I gotta do is sign one more paper and I'm out the door.
So. Cast an appraising eye upon any document that stands out in comparison to the others. The agreement to harm, called "intervention," "treatment" "therapy" etc, will be bereft of content, definition, explanation. Think of it, you just spent four hours reading policies and procedures, and ridiculously redundant minituae on every imaginable occurence that could pertain under the sun-absense, tardiness, apparel, demeanor, lunch breaks, climate control, exits, phone calls, rounds, medication, time sheets, fire drills, nothing hasn't been spelled out to the nth degree, til you get to the single page containing no descriptive information at all, no hint of controversy or remote possiblity of problem or even choice in the matter. What matter? It's just a simple statement that you agree to refrain from using agency-sanctioned behavioral interventions until duly trained. How benign. To be signed, dated, and witnessed, and down the road you go.
Witnessed? Seriously, screaming red sirens are now endeafening the inner eardrum. In the event you don't like being fucked with one whit.
Your first question will bring an end to the charade, so have fun, ask outright for a descripton of these interventions, and behold the squirmy offense and dissembling that ensues . If you're like me you'll refrain from kicking over tables like Christ in the temple on your way out the door, God knows you'd be entitled.
Just when you think you've seen the worst of it comes this alert by Susan Lawrence, Board of Directors, Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education:
The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, MA, uses cruel "aversive therapy" on children with autism, depression, and mental retardation. It's the only school in the US that allows painful shocks of children, sometimes tying them down for long sessions of shocks. "Hot-saucing", extreme food deprivation, water sprayed in the face and nostrils and other corporal punishments are routine and frequent. None of these "aversive therapies" have ever been proven to work with the mentally ill children who are forced into the JRC.
This "school" was recently investigated. To read the entire, chilling report of extensive abuse and law-breaking,
see "Observations and Findings of Out-of-State Program Visitation;
Judge Rotenberg Educational Center" at
Most JRC "clients" come from New York, where "aversive therapy" is
illegal. Today the New York State Education Dept. will decide whether to stop sending children to JRC.
The Massachusetts Senate recently voted to ban "aversive therapy" in
an amendment to the fiscal Budget. The House is likely to take up the vote this week. If you live in Massachusetts you can take action for these poor kids, click here for onformation on contacting MA Speaker and Representatives.
Despite overwhelming opposition JRC has successfully fought this legislation twice in the past. Its adherents include over 70 parents, and that creates an uphill battle. How parents can let this happen to their kids, do you really want to know? What do you think?
MA Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee:
The effects of prolonged punishments as a behavioral tool are pronounced. First, punished people become acclimated to punishments. The procedures thus begin to lose effectiveness. The severity of the punishment must then be increased in an ever-increasing spiral. Proponents of aversives such as JRC argue that self-injurious behaviors are so destructive and inexplicable that analyzing the behavior is unlikely to illuminate its cause. Proponents acknowledge that punishments must be continued indefinitely, but they argue, the few young people who engage in these behaviors are fundamentally different than other people. One cannot analyze why they are doing what they are doing, one can only respond.
Indeed, some people are different from others. But torturers are just good people whose heroic efforts to win the trust and confidence of headcases never paid off, so clearly the next step is to spray water in the autistic's nostrils, because if a torturer can't form an alliance with the mentally ill, no one can.
And yet. Success stories abound, I've been doing this a long time, we'll get to all of it eventually.
Thanks to Kathi at Toddlertime for the email and links, this page takes you to the colorful and cheery JRC propoganda page, and then click this for the reality check. ("…she received 61 aversives on the day that she died.")