JRC Founder Steps Down, Accepts 5 Years Probation To Avoid Jail Time
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 25, 2011
CANTON, MASSACHUSETTS-- Faced with the possibility of serving jail time, Dr. Matthew Israel has agreed to step down as the director of the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, and accept five years probation.
Ironically, the criminal charges against Israel have nothing to do with the fact that his the program he founded uses pain to control the behavior of hundreds of young people with disabilities. Instead, he was accused of destroying some video surveillance tapes that purportedly documented what happened in one JRC home nearly four years ago.
At 2 o'clock on the night of August 26, 2007, staff at the home received a series of phone calls from a person who identified himself as a quality control monitor from JRC headquarters. On that person's orders, the staff woke the three residents in the early morning hours of August 26, then delivered skin shocks 77 times to an 18-year-old resident and 29 times to a 16-year-old resident.
They were told that the two-second skin shocks, which have been described as a "hard pinch" or a "bee sting", were to be given because of behaviors the youngsters made earlier in the evening. The caller did not say what the alleged behaviors were, and the staff did not further ask why the punishments were to be given.
The staff later realized that the calls were part of a hoax. It turned out that the caller was a former resident who had run away from JRC and knew the residents and the layout of the building.
Investigators later learned that one resident was restrained to a 4-point board during the shocks -- even though this "movement limitation" had not been approved -- and that staff had failed to seek treatment for one of the residents for first-degree burns made by the electrodes used to zap him.
Last week, Israel was indicted on charges of misleading a grand jury and accessory after the fact to a crime. Prosecutors said he had ordered one of his employees to erase the tapes of the 2007 incident.
According to the Patriot-Ledger, state Attorney General Martha Coakley said the result was what her office wanted.
"We believe that Dr. Israel created a system and environment that failed to prevent a lapse of this magnitude," Coakley said in a press statement.
The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center is the only program in the United States that is allowed to use such "aversive therapy" to change behavior of people with disabilities. About one-half of the 225 'students' in the program are required to wear battery packs connected to the electrodes attached to their arms, legs, or torso. They are under 24-hour surveillance. Staff are required to use remote controls to activate the devices, for such behaviors as self-injury or assault, but also for such things as failing to complete school work, standing up, or talking out of turn.
Earlier this month, Israel, 77 had announced he would be retiring and moving to California. He did not mention the August 2007 incident in his resignation letter.
Founder of electric shock autism treatment school forced to quit (Guardian)
Report: JRC Staff Asked No Questions While Zapping Youths During Prank Calls -- Dec. 19, 2007 (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
Judge Rotenberg Center -- Facility Uses Electric Shock To Change Behavior (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
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