Eight states are sending autistic, mentally retarded, and emotionally troubled kids–including some from the criminal justice system–to a Massachusetts facility called the Judge Rotenberg Center that punishes them with painful electric shocks, reports Mother Jones magazine. The school’s director, Matthew Israel, has long sought referrals from schools and psychiatric hospitals; recently, he has begun courting the criminal justice system, sending promotional materials to judges and probation officers, picking up students from New York’s juvenile jails and Rikers Island.
Last year, the New York State Education Department had a investigators, including three psychologists, spend five days at the center and compiled a 26-page document packed with damning findings. Among them: Staff shock kids for “nagging, swearing, and failing to maintain a neat appearance.” Some students must “earn” meals by not displaying certain behaviors. Otherwise they are “made to throw a predetermined caloric portion of their food into the garbage.” When students enter and leave the school each day, “almost all” are wearing some type of restraints, such as handcuffs or leg shackles. “Students may be restrained”–on a four-point restraint board or chair–”for extensive periods of time (e.g. hours or intermittently for days).” Some students are shocked while strapped to the restraint board. Israel denounced the investigators as “biased” and compiled a counter-report nearly three times the length of the original.