Ruby posted about this issue a couple days ago on her blog. I recommend you go read her post to get an idea about the issue first. She links in the original article, which is actually a series of articles about the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts, published by Mother Jones, but I’ll link in each of them here. It is a lot of information, I’m asking you to make a certain time commitment in asking you to read all of this, but we’re talking about kids who are being abused with the knowledge, support, and protection (of the institution) of the authorities. First comes knowledge, then comes action. So this post is meant to be a follow-on to Ruby, who got me started.

Mother Jones articles:

The good news is that at least one Massachusetts politician is doing what he can to fight this school. The bad news is that people in Massachusetts have been trying for decades to get it shut down and have not succeeded. Maybe it is time to turn the tide. One way to do that is to convince our states to stop sending kids there.

You see, most of these kids are sent there by “the state”. JRC accepts pretty much anyone, so some kids are sent there by parents who feel like they have no other options, and that’s something we should examine. Abusive situations are their only option? That means it is society’s problem as well. It is quite often “impartial judges” who condemn the kids to this institution, however.

“Only” a quarter of the students at this school come from Massachusetts, the rest come from New York, Virginia, Washington DC, and five other states. For some reason I have had a hard time finding info on those other states. California and New Jersey used to send kids there, but New Jersey won’t send any new referrals there, and California has had some laws passed that at least limit, if not prohibit, the students they will send there.

One commenter on the articles made an excellent point: to say that the choice is between extreme doses of drugs and extreme forms of aversive therapy is a false choice. Let’s not let the people defending abuse with a claim that they have no choice cloud the issue. It is the kids who are given no choice. This is a human rights issue, have no doubt about that. That particular commenter linked in an interesting website: MindFreedom.

I’ve only looked at the site briefly, but I believe it is worth checking out.

Another point to consider – it isn’t just the judges and parents sentencing kids to places like this, it is the lack of funding for both research and the kind of facilities where the kids who have extreme self-harm behavior could be handled with something other than torture. That means it is us if we vote for tax cuts, and it is our politicians who don’t set aside funding that could help prevent abuse like this as well as help the people who have the very difficult task of caring for the extremely challenging kids.

So, what can we do about it?

Write. If you’re reading this, you probably write your own blog, or emails, or whatever. I’m asking you to take a half hour out of your day and write your legislators. Make some key points:

  • Outside of that school, anyone performing electric shock on kids would be arrested
  • International law on treatment of war prisoners does not allow the kind of aversive treatment the kids at JRC are subjected to
  • Hundreds of articles by peer-reviewed journals do not agree with Matthew Israel’s assertions on the necessity or success of aversive “treatments”

Those are a few points to start with. If you read the articles I’ve linked in, you should get additional ideas if you need them. The important thing is to write your representatives in the House and Congress and register your opinion of the JRC, as well as the unethical behavior in states sending kids out of state to receive “treatment” that is often illegal in their home states.

If you live in the states that send kids to JRC, it is especially important to get every politician who represents you aware of the issue and your opinion.

Here’s how you find their contact information: Contacting The Congress.

Please forward this information to everyone you can, and encourage people to write. It is not enough to express displeasure about this situation if you are not also expressing this sentiment to our elected officials. It starts with us.

If anyone runs across information on the other states sending kids here, I’d love to have those details as well. And if anyone has any questions, additional information, corrections, updates, whatever, please do post them.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for writing.

sebatian running