FDA: End abusive electric shocks on Autistic & Disabled people for behaviour modification

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The worldwide autistic community and our allies call on Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner of Drugs and Medicine for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to immediately ban the use of contingent electric shock in behavior modification.

Furthermore, we call for the state of Massachusetts to immediately shut down the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts.

Lastly, we demand appropriate supports for people with disabilities who need them.

JRC was founded in 1971 as the Behavior Research Institute. It has always focused on manipulating rewards and punishments as a way of controlling the behavior of disabled people, primarily autistic people with and without intellectual disabilities.

It is the only program in the U.S. that still uses electric shock as punishment for this purpose. According to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, it definitively falls within the UN’s parameters of torture.

(See: UN Report on torture and degrading treatment)

In 2012 the American public became aware of what was going on inside JRC during Andre McCollins's lawsuit. When McCollins was a teenage resident of JRC in 2002, he one day refused to take his coat off. This set off a 7-hour torture session involving restraint, food deprivation, toilet restriction and 31 shocks. McCollins has never recovered. What happened to McCollins is not isolated.

Contingent aversives do not work long-term to suppress disability-related self-injury or violence. Manipulating rewards and punishments does not enable people to live the lives they choose. They certainly do not help those people participate as full members of their communities, whereas there are non-injurious, non-harmful and non-aversive, positive, supportive therapies not currently being employed, which can enable it

In 2014 the FDA held hearings. In April 2016 it drafted regulations to ban contingent shock -- but it has not implemented them. It is time for FDA to release the regulations.

Shock treatment is only one of the abuses at JRC. It needs to be closed entirely, and appropriate services created in its place.

All people have the right to freedom. This includes autistic people. The United States and the State of Massachusetts must protect those rights. Stop the shock, close JRC, and provide our people with the supports they need.

For further information, please see:

Jen Msumba, a former resident of the Judge Rotenberg Centre on her experiences

Lydia Brown's report and further media links on the Judge Rotenberg centre

Cal Montgomery's article on the Judge Rotenberg Centre giving further and finer details of abuse and mistreatment

Please sign and share this petition calling on Scott Gottlieb, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs at the US Food & Drug Administration to end the abuse of Autistic and Disabled people by contingent electric shock and other harmful and abusive treatments and therapies.

Initially Signed by:

Cal Montgomery, Autistic and Disability Rights Activist, Author of 'Critic of the Dawn'
Katherine Lawrence, Autistic and Disability Rights Activist, 'Autistic on Wheels'
Kieran Rose, Autistic and Disability Rights Activist, 'The Autistic Advocate'

Signed on behalf of the following organisations (If you would like your organisation to be added to this list please identify that in the comments when you sign):

The Autistic Cooperative (International)
Autistic Union (International)
Autistic UK (UK)
Autistic Inclusive Meets (UK)
International Badass Activists (US)
The Autistic Paddies (Ireland)
Autistic Spectrum New Zealand (New Zealand)
Asperger's Syndrome New Zealand (New Zealand)
End Neurophobia (International)
Autistic Black Triangle (International)
Autistic Safety Network (International)
Guerilla Aspies
Stealth Aspies (UK)
Autistic Strategies Network - AutisticStrategies.net (international)

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