Washington, D.C. Members of the national disability rights group ADAPT are outside the home of FDA Director Scott Gottlieb demanding that he release the regulations that would immediately end the use of an electric shock device to control disabled children and adults at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts. “The FDA wrote the regulations to stop this in 2016, but has delayed them,” said Rhoda Gibson, an organizer with the Massachusetts ADAPT chapter. “Disabled Americans are tortured in my state every day with Gottlieb’s blessing.” ADAPT and other disability led organizations have been calling for an end to JRC’s use of this device for years now. The group went and protested the facility in 2016 and then went to the FDA last spring. They are now at Gottlieb’s house because they feel the FDA has dragged their feet for too long and needs to release the regulations immediately. “Disabled people are being tortured there every day. This has gone on long enough. The federal government needs to stop looking the other way and do something about this” said Priya Penner of Rochester New York. Numerous news outlets have covered the torture that goes on at the Judge Rotenberg Center including Fox UnderCover, ABC Nightline and Anderson Cooper. In 2012 Fox UnderCover exposed the video of Andre McCollins being tortured at JRC for over 7 hours and shocked 31 times. JRC tried to keep this video under wraps for over 8 years but Fox Undercover’s story exposed the cruelty of the practice to the American public. The torture still continues to this today.
While ADAPT has long opposed all institutions they hold a special contempt for the Rotenberg Center because of their use of electro shock devices. “The JRC has a bigger system of abusive violence and coercion, but the shock is the worst thing they do. This shock is specifically designed to be more painful than a police taser,” said organizer Marilee Adamski-Smith with the Central Wisconsin ADAPT Chapter. Adamski-Smith pointed to survivor Jennifer Msumba’s statements about wanting to die when she was shocked. Activists argue that rather than torture used at the JRC, more supports are needed to assist people living in the community. “Those supports work,” said Cal Montgomery, an organizer with the Chicago ADAPT. “Gentle, trauma-informed approaches that give people control over their own lives result in even people with histories of violence and self-injury living happy, healthy lives. Pain and fear may suppress dangerous behavior in the short term, but they make the underlying problems worse.” For decades ADAPT has struggled to secure for disabled Americans the same rights and liberties enjoyed by their nondisabled neighbors. 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.