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Judge Rotenberg Educational Center

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Articles on illegal behaviour

The Judge Rotten Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC), located in Canton, Massachusetts, is a torture center for children and adults with disabilities. No, that's not an exaggeration: it uses electric shocks[1][2] to punish its "students" for infractions as tiny as fidgeting or asking too many questions.

In 2013, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture concluded that the electric shocks and physical restraint amounted to torture and were a human rights violation.[3]

Trigger warning: This article includes descriptions of torture and abuse. It is extremely disturbing.


Matthew Israel founded the school after being inspired by B. F. Skinner.[4] The JRC uses principles of applied behavior analysis: reward people for doing something you like, and punish them when they do something you don't like.

The center was founded in Rhode Island, and then moved to Massachussetts.[5]


Instead of showers, I was bathed tied to a restraint board, naked, while staff washed me, putting their hands over me. All in front of cameras, where Monitoring watched, including men. Being tied on a restraint board, naked with my private areas exposed to the staff in the bathroom and the cameras was the most horrible, vulnerable, frightening experience for me.
—An anonymous JRC student[6]

Victims of the school wear backpacks equipped with a machine called the GED,[2] which administers electric shocks when a remote control button is pushed. The shocks were designed to be extremely painful, and they can leave burns, scabs, and scars on the skin.[6][7] The shocks may be up to 45 milliamps (while stun guns are typically 1-4 milliamps).[8] In at least one student, the shocks were often followed by epileptic seizures.[7] Other punishments include spraying people with water, pinching them, or forcing them to eat hot sauce.[9] The "portion program" involves starvation, in which a piece of someone's meal must be thrown away for every infraction.[6]

There are many reasons why students may be shocked: screaming, covering their ears, fidgeting, trying to take off the electrodes, leaving their seats, throwing papers onto the table, playing with a used paper cup, laughing, crying, using the wrong tone of voice, tensing up, and more.[4][6] Sometimes the devices go off accidentally.[6][7]

Other behavioral strategies, such as redirecting someone who is misbehaving, are not supposed to be applied. "Teachers" who do this could be suspended or fired.[7]

Paying attention to a student is considered a reward. Thus, if they're scared or crying or upset, they are not comforted.[4]

Terrorizing of students[edit]

A staff would rush in at various times during the school-day, yelling and screaming while entering the room and racing to the student, and place either a plastic knife or a metal spoon to the student's mouth, and yell, "Do you want to swallow a knife? Do you want to swallow a knife?" The staff would hold the plastic knife to the student's mouth in a life-threatening manner, the student would scream loudly as though it was his last breath, and another staff somewhere in the room would push a hidden remote control button to shock this student who was already physically helpless to move his body an inch in any direction while being attacked.
—Gregory Miller, former JRC "teacher"[7]

New students, when being assessed, are sometimes provoked into misbehavior. Then the records of these behaviors are shown to the judge when it is decided whether students should be given the GED.[7] Staff may also provoke and then punish students seemingly for entertainment.[6]


He looked like he was gone, like they'd beat him and broke him
—Allen Gwynn, case manager, discussing Andre McCollins[4]

One young man, Andre McCollins, became catatonic after a 6-hour session in which he was tied face down to a 4-point restraint and shocked 31 times while he screamed and pleaded. (Tensing up or screaming was punishable by more shocks.) After 37 days in a hospital, he showed extreme anxiety and was terrified of anything resembling a remote, so his mother did not return him to the school.[4] A former teacher testified that what happened to Andre was not unusual.[7]

Students at the JRC show signs of severe anxiety, especially when a teacher reaches for a remote in order to shock someone.[7]

Post traumatic stress disorder can haunt students who leave the center.[6]

Proponents and opponents[edit]


Proponents claim that this is the only way to handle "severe" people who have self-injury problems. (So it's not okay for disabled people to hurt themselves, but it's perfectly okay for other people to hurt them.)

Autism Speaks has allowed the JRC to participate in a resource fair.


The autism rights movement has long opposed the JRC and called for the shocks to be banned.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]