The Judge Rotenberg Center

Kev has just posted on the JRC. By coincidence this arrived in my inbox yesterday. This email is published unedited apart from a little necessary reformatting and some tidying up of the links. I do not know who the author is. But I trust the person who brought it to my attention.

Please read all of this very important email, and then circulate it far and wide if you agree with it’s purpose.


The purpose of this email is to inform concerned individuals about a judicially protected facility that is blatantly violating the basic human rights of severely challenged or disabled individuals. Manyof the residents of the Judge Rotenberg Education Center are people with Autism, some of whom are non- verbal.


The Judge Rotenberg Center’s main location and administrative offices are located in Canton, Massachusetts, and it’s 50 other residential homes are located in several cities in Massachusetts. The director of the JRC, Matthew Israel, was a student of the late
B.F. Skinner, a psychologist who was a strong proponent ofbehaviorism, who formed many of his beliefs from experiments with animals.
Israel departs from Skinner’s teachings, in that Skinner believed aversives (described below) should be limited to extraordinary or emergency situations and not for standard training, while Israel relies upon them predominantly for many of his students.


The JRC uses level III aversive techniques to alter or suppress selfabusive behaviors or any other behaviors that staff members deem as uncooperative or unfavorable. Aversives used at the JRC, which wasformerly known as the Behavior Research Institute (BRI), include: spanking, pinching, forcing to eat taste aversives (vinegar mix, jalapeno peppers, or hot sauce), withholding food, forcing to smell ammonia, spraying water to the face, forcing to listen to static noises through specially designed helmets, and their trade mark method, the use of the Graduated Electronic Decelerator (GED), which
simply put is a shocking device that delivers a jolt to the student/patient of up to 65 volts of electricity through remote control. These aversives are sometimes administered while thepatient has their hands and feet restrained.


Two deaths at the Center raise serious questions regarding their methods. On December 19, 1990, Linda Cornelison, a patient who was mentally retarded and non-verbal, died of causes related to stomach perforations and ulcers. The Center failed to properly diagnose these apparently pre-existing conditions, and failed to provide an appropriate diet and treatment. When symptoms occurred that should have provided an opportunity for further examination, the JRC instead opted to punish her with a plethora of aversive treatments, including 61which were administered on the day of her death. Linda, who had weighed 120 pounds when she began the Center’s food program, weighed just 90 pounds at the time of her death, which was less than one year later.


On the 23rd of July, 1985, Vincent Milletich, a 22 year old student with Autism, died at the JRC’s (Then Behavior Research Institute) group home in Seehonk, Mass. According to a New York Times article, “he (Vincent) had been shackled, fitted with a helmet and forced to listen to static noise through earphones. The Rhode Island medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Mr. Milletich said the victim died of asphyxiation but said it was not known what cut off his oxygen supply.” The article goes on to say, “Judge Ryan said Mr. Israel ”was negligent in authorizing the use of this helmet without having an expert in helmet construction design the helmet or subject it to a safety inspection.”


On page 25 of Dick Sobsey’s book, “Violence and Abuse in the Lives of People with Disabilities The End of Silent Acceptance?” Paul H Brookes Pub. Co. (January 1994), the writer reveals, “Vincent Milletich died after BRI workers `pushed his head between his legs, cuffed his hands behind his back, put a helmet on his head with radio static hissing into his ears and masked his face. He went limp and was declared dead on arrival minutes later at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.’


According to Director Matthew Israel’s own words, posted on JRC’s Website, “The cause of death (Vincent’s) was ultimately determined to be natural causes related to his condition of tardive dyskinesia and not due to the restraint procedure that had been employed.” However, his claim is not substantiated in the coroner’s report or the findings of the court, which explicitly stated that asphyxiation was the cause. Vincent’s parents have said that he suffered from epilepsy. Regardless of what other diagnosis Vincent may or may not have had, Judge Ryan DID declare Mr. Israel “negligent” in regards to the helmet that was used in his treatment on the day of his death. This fact is a linkage between the JRC staff and the death of Vincent Milletich that Matt Israel cannot evade with clever words.


It should also be known that the Center imposes a diet upon it’s student population that is high in wheat and other grains that have high gluten (a protein) content. Many parents and experts will very quickly point out that gluten, and also casein (a dairy protein) cannot be properly digested by some people with Autism. The result of eating such foods will often lead to hyper, uncooperative, or confused behaviors. The demonstration of such behaviors would undoubtedly lead to aversive treatments being applied to the students, yet the Center’s, and Dr. Israel’s philosophy is not concerned with the cause of behaviors, only the cessation of them.


Many foes have arisen to oppose Dr. Israel’s continued use of level III aversive treatments. The Massachusetts Office for Children failed to stop him in 1985. Since 1986, the Massachusetts legislature has been unable to ban their usage. Throughout most of the 1990’s the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation was also unable to stop the aversives. The courts have continuously favored the Center. Matt Israel’s cause is also supported by a troop of parents who will always favor keeping their children’s behavior subdued, rather than seeking out treatments that focus upon identifying the causes and meeting developmental and other needs.


In 1994 Eye to Eye with Connie Chung attempted to expose the JRC, but Connie may have found Dr. Israel to be far more clever than she was prepared for. Please click on the following link for more details: [Source]


Currently, New York Senator Martin J. Golden has introduced Senate Bill 6876, which if approved by vote, will prevent New York schools from sending students to the Judge Rotenberg Center. If you live in the state of New York please email, phone or write your local state senator and plead with them to pass this bill. Here is a link to the text of the bill:

This link will allow you to track the progress of the bill:

You will find email addresses for New York Senators at this link:

Here is a link for contacting lower house members by email:


If you are not a New York resident, it may still be worthwhile to email your concerns. You may also want to investigate whether your state is sending children to the JRC. If so, please contact them and remind them that the aversive therapies used by the JRC violate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires an extensive focus on positive behavioral interventions. Please contact the Federal Department of Education with any complaints through this link:


It may also be helpful to contact the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and demand a re-evaluation of their registration of the Graduated Electronic Decelerator (Shock Device), which is manufactured by the Judge Rotenberg Education Center, Inc. It’s registration number is: 1222743, and it is classified as an “Aversive Conditioning Device, FDA regulation number: 882.5235. Please inform them that this device is being used on individuals with severe forms of Autism who may be completely unable to associate the reason for the pain (shock) with their behavior. They may also suffer from sensory related issues that increase their pain level far beyond what a typical person may experience. Even the aversive shock testing that Dr. Ivar Lovaas performed on people with Autism did not reveal any lasting learned benefit. This fact alone should clearly reveal that the GED is not a suitable “conditioning device,” since it’s effect is quickly lost once the device is no longer employed. This reality makes it evident that the so called “conditioning device” has become an ongoing cattle prod or dog collar, which produces only pain, with no educational benefit. There are other non-invasive treatments that are proven to have long term benefits. Please email the USFDACenter for Devices and Radiological Health at this link: , or write to them at:
1350 Piccard Drive
Rockville, MD 20850-4307 U.S.A
Phone: 1-800-638-2041 or 301.443.6597


Be sure to specify the GED’s registration number. It should also be
noted that this device is NOT FDA approved. It IS FDA registered. If anyone finds references to claims of FDA approval, or has heard Dr. Israel make claims of it being approved, they should immediately report this to the FDA. In conclusion, I want it to be known that this message was originally written by a person who has Asperger’s Syndrome (A milder form of Autism), who chooses to remain anonymous. My sister is
severely effected by symptoms related to Autism, and has been in institutions for 38 years of her life. I have personally seen many cases of self abusive behavior within the hallways of these institutions. With all that I know, and all that I have seen and felt, I would never send my sister to such a place as the Judge Rotenberg Education Center.

My little boy is also diagnosed with Autism. He is the most beautiful and innocent person in the world to me. The idea of someone purposefully shocking him under the guise of
medical care infuriates me. Please read, hear and feel my words as being alive and full of empathy for my fellow friends who live with Autism. Yes! It is possible for a person with Autism to have empathy!


At the time of writing, this letter is being witnessed by members of the Autism community, including people with Autism, parents of children with Autism, and professionals and advocates who respect and care for people with Autism. Included in these paragraphs are the collective thoughts and feelings of many of us who sincerely care about how people with Autism are treated.

Permission is granted to distribute this document for positive advocacy purposes. Permission is not granted to make alterations. However, I will permit notations to be added to indicate outdated portions of the text, or to explain the outcome of a legal decision, or other needful clarifications, as long as they are accurate,clearly identified as notations, and they must not detract from the purpose of this document.


Thank you for caring!

26 thoughts on “The Judge Rotenberg Center

  1. The diet in the place is something I hadn’t heard about before. No meat of any kind whatsoever, and there’s very vairety as to what patients can eat. Never mind that the diet is high in gluten and casein. A high-carb diet is probably the worst diet for people with seizure disorders, as I imagine a good portion of the patients are.

  2. If you want a new lesson in “hypocrisy,” check out the following links. Short version – the American Psychological Association has condemned the use of “torture” or “cruel” treatment. But their condemnation is very situation-specific – it only applies to prisoners under interrogation.

    APA President: Speaking Against Torture

    APA Task Force Report on National Security (torture)

    Click to access PENSTaskForceReportFinal.pdf

    In solidarity


  3. Just read the New York State Education Department report dated 6/9/2006… Truly Sickening.

    If they don’t close the place down and if someone doesn’t go to jail, there is no justice in this land.

  4. My biggest fear at this point is that NYS prohibits the use of GED devises without removing the students. There are no psychiatric drugs. No trained staff. No education. No socialization. Nothing but punishment. Aversives make people angry and many of these students were dangerous when they arrived. The staff has been told that they are never to call police, and police have been told not to go on the campus. This is a formula for catastrophe.

  5. This is very sad, I just learned about JRC yesterday and have 2 posts on it at my blog on critical psychiatry. I didn’t sleep last night or eat a meal today, I’m just sick and overwhelmed, but appreciate touching base here with people who see this evil for what it is.

  6. A little history is needed to understand Dr. Israel. He got his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1960, the height of MK ULTRA there. MK ULTRA was a highly funded, super secret program funded by the CIA. Its main area of reseach was brainwashing. It was an ‘anything goes’ project with no accountability. There was a huge scandal when the program was discovered.

    The NYS report shows that Dr. Israel uses brainwashing techniques of withholding food, torture, and emotional interaction. – while only pretending to to offer education and bragging about not offering traditional psychologial services to his “students”.

  7. Taken from wikipedia :
    “There is much published evidence that the project involved not only the use of drugs to manipulate persons, but also the use of electronic signals to alter brain functioning.”
    Oh yeah.
    Dr. Israel must have seen something to be able to think of such a horrible treatment.

    By the way, I am not trying to be a supporter of GED but if the patient is hurting him/herself won’t it be better to ‘tell’ him/her not to do so?

    Seems like a case of abused rights.

  8. I know Dr Isreal and his wife personally. They are both greed and power-driven. Her name is Judy Weber and she runs a school for the same special education population in Glendale, California. The school’s name is Tobinworld. The aversive devices used in massachussets are illegal in california and are not used, but many things about the school are still unethical and illegal i.e. On paper there is always a “qualified” substitute working in a class when a teacher is absent, but in reality, there is no substitute and the students often go without anyone but a few under-trained TA’s–a newspaper article featured the dogs that live on campus as “dog Heroes” due to Judy Weber’s claims that they are part of a behavior management program, in reality the dogs are Judy’s personal pets, the students are not allowed to touch them and the animals defecate freely in the yard, allowing more than one student with autism to smear feces all over themselves during PE–PE with no qualified PE teacher and no equipment.

  9. I noticed that in the news report Irael says, ” since the Regents’ rules went into effect on June 23 – including allowing shocks only for aggression or abuse and not combining forms of aversive therapy – 80 percent of the students regressed significantly.”

    Which goes to show that electric shocks are a waste of time as they have not had a lasting effect on their victims’ behaviour. Or are the parents and Israel saying that these kids need to be shocked for the rest of their lives?

  10. Before you can judge, you must live it: I had my son in 5 different placements that were expertised in Autism prior to putting him at JRC. He was expelled from their schools because his level of violence towards himself and others was beyond their control. He put myself, my family membersl, his teachers, and peers in a constant state of danger. Several medications were tried. Ritalin, Cylert, Risperadol, Mellaril. All had no real effect. This school has saved my sons life, and all of those around him as well. If there is no JRC, the next stop for my son is in a straightjacket at a mental instiitution heavily drugged beyond comprehension. He is not harmed at JRC, he is doing awesome, he is well cared for and healthy and happy. Back off.

  11. Back off?
    Sorry. The system seems to have failed you and your son. But the GED is institutional abuse. We will continue to oppose it and argue for appropriate interventions. I am still waiting for independent research to verify the anecdotal reports from JRC

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  13. israel should be stopped and investigated and ,/…hes a nut job to proclaim that abuse is ok in treating his patients………….sickening. he is using these children as guinea pigs……..

  14. Matthew Israel is a name I remember well. He was director of the Behavior Research Institute – commonly referred to as BRI – many years ago. BRI became embroiled in controversy over the death of a student, and advocates for people with autism including parents, educators, and legal professionals overwhelmingly and vigorously opposed the practices utilized as “treatment” there. It is disturbing to know that Dr. Israel has merely renamed his facility and gone on with his business of torture. As the mother of a young woman who has successfully come to terms with her autism as a result of excellent educational opportunities that never included aversives, I beg the authorities to re-investigate Dr. Israel’s operation. I have another daughter who is the parent of twins with autism. My grandchildren are receiving the same nurturing kind of learning experiences that their aunt did, and they are thriving also. I do not believe that hurting children ever can benefit them; I believe it only teaches them that violence is okay. And FYI: just because a person is non-verbal does NOT mean that he/she is unaware and/or unfeeling.

  15. Absolutely revolting! I agree with the attorney from MA – if this was happening to p.o.w.s/terrorists there would be an outrage. Thank you Barry Prizant for speaking out against this as well.
    I love how Dr Israel says, “It is simply a device..” Nothing is simple when it comes to autism. It’s the hardest disorder to treat, to live with and yet look at all those who are starting independent lives and living on their own. It can be done!!

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  17. I have a 25 year old son with servere autism, he is non verbal and is self abusive, self injury, aggressive, hes 6’1 too, id rather DIE than ever put my son into the JRC!! you need behavior modifaction! no punishments! now my son is doing much better i forgot to tell you those really bad behaviors had happened more when he was 15 yrs old, altho they still come up. I love my son with all my heart and i hate the fact hes in a group home now, i live in R.I. I wish i could take him home forever. Thanks for reading.

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