In The Politics of Autism, I write:
For those who remain at larger residential institutions, the horrors of yesteryear have generally ended. In 2012, however, a ten-year-old video surfaced, showing disturbing image of an electric shock device at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton Massachusetts. Staffers tied one student to a restraint board and shocked him 31 times over seven hours, ignoring his screamed pleas to stop. The Rotenberg Center is the only one in the nation that admits to using electric shocks on people with developmental disabilities, including autism. Center officials said that they had stopped using restraint boards but insisted that shocks were necessary in extreme cases to prevent officials insist the shock program is a last resort that prevents people with severe disorders from hurting themselves or others. Though a majority of the FDA’s Neurological Devices Panel said that such devises pose “an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury,” the agency had not banned them as of 2014.
ADAPT praises Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), a long-time champion on autistic community issues, who is showing leadership yet again by committing to the introduction of a legislation that would ban the use of electric shock devices that are used as a form of “therapy” for disabled people, like the devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC). ADAPT and other disability-led organizations have long fought to end the use of these electric shock devices on disabled people, which are made to be stronger than a police taser and have been used to shock disabled people for minor infractions, such as not taking off a coat in a timely manner.
In announcing Congressman Chris Smith determination to put an end to these horrific devices, Congressman Smith said “The use of electrical stimulation devices to “treat” individuals with disabilities as “aversion therapy” is torture-plain and simple. This practice is absurd and degrading, with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture specifically singling out this practice as a human rights violation. The abuses at the Rotenberg Center need to end, and the FDA-which has for two years both under Presidents Obama and Trump failed to finalize regulations to ban these electric shock devices for aversive therapy-must protect the rights of the vulnerable and ban these devices immediately.”
“Congressman Smith has come through once again for the Disability Community” said ADAPT member Cal Montgomery of Illinois. “We have been fighting for years to end the torture of disabled people who have been subjected to electric shocks. Thanks to Representative Chris Smith we are much closer to ending the use of graduated electronic decelerators to punish disabled children and adults.”
ADAPT members from across the nation have been camped out for eight days outside FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s home in Washington, D.C. demanding that he release regulations that would do exactly what Congressman Smith is planning to do legislatively – to put an end to this violent treatment by banning these electric shock devices. “I am so glad that this legislation was taken up by a member of Congress who not only introduces legislation but has a track record of getting bills passed,” said Anita Cameron, an organizer with ADAPT. “It is shameful that the FDA wouldn’t release regulations banning these devices. Torturing disabled people is obviously wrong and our country needs to do better. We are thankful to Congressman Smith for leading the way when the FDA would not.”
“We will not rest until this legislation has passed and disabled people are safe from these kinds of abuse” said ADAPT organizer Mike Oxford. “We have worked long and hard for this and we are grateful to Congressman Chris Smith for working with us to make it a reality.”
For decades ADAPT has worked to secure for disabled Americans the same rights and liberties enjoyed by all other Americans. Learn more about ADAPT’s history and activities at www.adapt.org, on social media with the NationalADAPT Facebook page and on the @NationalADAPT Twitter, and under the hashtag #ADAPTandRESIST. You can also follow the fight against the JRC shock device at www.adapt.org/jrc and #StopTheShock.