The Judge Rotenberg Center is reportedly the only school in the world to regularly use high-powered electric shocks on its students — and it’s right here in the United States.
According to The Guardian, the international body keeping tabs on human rights issues in the Americas has called for an immediate ban on the practice and is urging the U.S. federal government to take action.
The Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, is believed to be the only school in the world that routinely inflicts high-powered electric shocks as a form of punishment on vulnerable children and adults. About 47 of its students are currently subjected to the “treatment”, which involves individuals being zapped with electric currents far more powerful than those discharged by stun guns.
Disability rights campaigners have tried for decades to stop the practice, which the school’s administrators call “aversive therapy”. So far the institution has managed to fend off all opposition, arguing that electric shocks are an acceptable way of discouraging harmful habits.
Now the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has issued a rare formal notice known as “precautionary measures” that calls for immediate cessation of the electric shocks.
In 2013, then-United Nations monitor on torture Juan Méndez found the type of electric shock technique used by JRC to be “a potential violation of the UN convention against torture and other international laws.”
The IACHR cited his work in their seven-page resolution and also noted that several federal agencies and professional groups have urged a ban on “aversive techniques” due to the psychological trauma they cause, The Guardian reported.
The commission’s intervention was prompted by a petition from a coalition of advocacy groups led by Disability Rights International. DRI’s president, Laurie Ahern, told the Guardian the commission’s new call for a ban added to a growing body of opinion that the electric shocks amounted to a form of torture.
“The idea of using electric shocks to torture children has been recognized as unconscionable around the world – the US government has got to respond to this and put a stop to it,” Ahern said.
The school defended its practice in a statement to The Guardian, insisting the electrical shocks do not pose any serious risks to the children.
“The clients are generally free of restraint and ineffective and dangerous psychotropic medications, free of injuries and able to further their education and relationships with their families in ways that were not possible with any other treatments.”