Psychology / Dr. Matthew Israel Tortures Autistic Children

Dr. Israel / Judge Rotenberg Center receive taxpayer funding and government permission to torture disabled children.

Photo from The Age of Autism Website

Photo from Age of Autism Website

Barbaric electrical shock aversion “therapy” is used by doctors and staff at the Judge Rotenberg Center, founded by Dr. Matthew Israel. This “therapy” can be court-ordered. The State of Massachusetts provided legal exemption to the center so that it could continue the use of this torture regime to punish children. This type of electric shock device is illegal around the world for use on prisoners and terrorists, and yet the state of Massachusetts has for nearly 30 years (and still does) permitted its use on disabled children. Israel was allowed to resign rather than be held responsible for his sadistic activities. Matthew Israel, allowed to torture children for 40 years; not prosecuted. Continues life as usual, on “probation.” From a report published online by MOTHER JONES May 27, 2011, by Jen Quraishi. Edited for length. JRC (Judge Rotenberg Center) has weathered attacks for 40 years, but there are signs that the wind may be changing: Earlier this month, school founder and executive director Matthew Israel announced he is stepping down as of June 1. Israel will reportedly be moving to California to join his wife, Judy Weber, who runs a special needs school called Tobinworld. In his official statement, Israel made no mentions of the recent charges plaguing the school, but it’s been discovered that his resignation is part of a plea bargain to spare himself jail time.

As the Boston Herald reports, Israel agreed to resign and to undergo “five years of pre-trial probation to settle charges accusing him of interfering with an investigation…” The investigation in question is a 2007 incident in which someone pretending to be a JRC supervisor prank-called the school and ordered administrators to shock two special needs teens. The administrators gave one teen 29 shocks, and the other 77. And though the school will tell you the shocks feel like a bee sting, Gonnerman says it feels more like a swarm of wasps attacking. There is 24/7 video surveillance of all students and staff, so these actions should have been easily preserved as evidence. However, Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley indicted Israel on charges that he ordered staff to destroy video footage of the incident.

“Dr. Israel then attempted to destroy evidence of the events and mislead investigators, and that conduct led to his indictments today,” she told the Guardian. “Today’s action removes Dr. Israel from the school and should ensure better protection for students in the future.” By agreeing to leave the school, Israel was able to avoid incarceration, but his departure doesn’t necessarily mean that things at the school will change immediately. As part of the deal, there will be additional checks in place to make sure incidents similar to the 2007 event don’t recur, but . JRC is currently looking for a replacement for Israel. Until then, his longtime, trusted, second-in-command Glenda Crookes will run the school. Hope she’s up to the task: even though Israel’s gone, the Department of Justice still has an open investigation of the school for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.Photo: Child at JRC tied to a 4-point restraint board and wired to a shock device.
From The Boston Phoenix, November 26, 1985.

Matthew Israel, this self-styled savior, is a radical Skinnerian behavior-modification psychologist. He is vehemently opposed to drug therapy. He has emerged as the country’s most outspoken proponent of aversive therapy, saying positive reinforcement alone can’t eradicate the most bizarre behaviors. Over the past 14 years he has devised and revised a complex system of rewards and punishments and pain that he claims can eliminate inappropriate and life-threatening behaviors in the most hard-core autistic, mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, and just plain too-troubled children and adults. Currently, Israel is also trying to modify the behavior of the state of Massachusetts, which he claims is acting too aggressively. On September 26, after a seven-month review of the program that intensified a 22-year-old autistic BRI following the death of a 22 year old BRI student, the state’s Office for Children (OFC) issued an emergency measure to shut the program down. OFC charged that Israel’s operation — the school and its group homes — was jeopardizing the health, safety, and welfare of its students through food deprivation, excessive punishment, and disregard for regulatory requirements. OFC suspended the licenses of the seven group homes in Massachusetts where BRI houses its 64 residents, ages 13 to 28. A magistrate upheld the OFC emergency suspension, though she ruled against the state on her findings of fact. A full hearing on whether BRI’s group-home licenses will be revoked is not expected to take place until January. In the meantime, the Providence school has been allowed to remain open but under severe OFC restrictions (OFC has influence over whether the school remains open or closed even though it’s in Providence, because Massachusetts children are in the program). Now the staff of BRI can no longer use physical punishments, also known as aversives; (then why are torture devices still in use almost 30 years later?) they cannot withhold meals as a punishment; they cannot take in new students or implement any new aversives or restraints.

In 1983 OFC approved a hierarchy of aversives that Matt Israel was already using in the school and group homes to treat the bizarre behaviors of many of his students. The hit list ranged from ignoring the behavior and the benign “no” response to ammonia sprayed near the nose, harsh tastes applied to the tongue, spankings, muscle squeezes, pinches, and brief cool showers. The agency now claims that Israel not only went too far with the approved punishments but also instituted new aversives without its okay. OFC’s own ambiguous regulations and restrictions, however, make it hard to decipher where the aversives were supposed to end and where the abuse may have started.

In his dealings with other states as well, Israel has often translated his understanding of leeway into “my way.” His current conflict with the commonwealth has brought attention to the fact that he has never published the results of his findings at BRI. Critics in his field wonder why a man who claims he’s on the cutting edge has not submitted his work to the scrutiny of scientific, blind review. (more at The Boston Phoenix)

NEW~The Wizard of Extortion: The Pharmaceutical Epidemic and Why the Judge Rotenberg “School of Shock” Endures – Scathing report at Age of Autism



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