Judge Rotenberg Educational Center

Originally posted on January 14, 2011

The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) is a private residential school located in Canton, MA. serving students and adults with autism, mental retardation, emotional disturbance and multiple disabilities, under the direction of Matthew Israel, Ph.D. Executive Director.  The Judge Rotenberg Center serves it’s students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Part of the JRC teaching involves punishing students who misbehave. and rewarding students for good behavior.  Punishment can come in the form skin shock therapy administered by a JRC staff member.  Staff members wear a transmitter that send a shock signal to the student who is wearing a receiver in a backpack or a fanny pack. Students who have trouble controlling their hands wear holsters to lock their hands at their sides until a teacher releases them.  Rewards are a trip to “Rewards Street, a replica of the “Yellow Brick Road” from the “Wizard of Oz”, complete with talking characters.  Students may be rewarded with a trip to the game room, the department store, complete with clothes, jewelry and makeup, the hair dresser, the Tiki room, for relaxing with soft drinks and computers or going to the in house movie theatre, complete with a concession stand.  In addition to the “Yellow Brick Road”  the center is filled with unique and expensive art, which decorates halls, conference rooms and offices.

The punishments, especially the shock treatment are extremely controversial and there have been numerous investigations and attempts to close the center.  There is currently an investigation underway by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.   However, parents of the many of students stand by the center’s techniques and feel that the JRC  has given their children a much better life than they would have had with out the Center.  The cost per student runs in excess of $200,000. per year, most of which is paid by state and local school districts and by state agencies serving adults with disabilities.