11 April 2013

Torture is Not Treatment

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) has created a petition calling on Gemino Healthcare to disassociate itself from the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC)

"In Gemino's own public statement, Director Rob Misener described the JRC as 'an important organization' providing a 'truly inspiring' 'level of dedication and care.' Mr. Misener also said that Gemino will 'look forward to supporting their mission into the future.'"  JRC uses such forms of "treatment" as, according to the petition, "painful electric shock at the push of a button. Hours of restraint and seclusion. Food and sleep deprivation."  These aren't new charges:  I've been hearing the same things from people who have worked there, people who know individuals who have been detained there, and advocates of humane care for people with disabilities for years.  I urge you to go read the petition and strongly consider signing.

If you do, however, you should be aware that, according to ASAN's Lydia Brown, "Gemino has taken the unusual step of blocking Change.org's server" in order to avoid receiving any information about people who have signed the petition.  "If you want Gemino's executives to hear our message," Brown continues, "navigate to the petition's home page and scroll down to the part containing the letter (immediately after the links to JRC related information). Copy and paste the petition letter into an email to all of the following recipients: tom.schneider@gemino.com, mike.gervais@gemino.com, mark.roscioli@gemino.com, rob.misener@gemino.com, stacy.allen@gemino.com, joni.akins@gemino.com
That way, your email will land directly into the inboxes of the decision-makers. Let them hear the voice of our community! Torture is absolutely unacceptable and is most definitely not healthcare."

If you're not familiar with JRC and would like to know more, here is a description of its history by founder Matthew Israel, a student and follower of the behaviorist B.F. Skinner, and here is some information from opponents.  There's plenty more information online.

In my opinion, JRC should be shut down.  It trades on aversive conditioning -- punishing the people who are sent there for what are seen as negative behaviors -- and it does so in ways that would never be considered acceptable for anyone other than the most devalued, dehumanized people.  I don't think "torture" is too strong a word to use, and if prisoners at Abu Ghraib had been subjected to the kind of treatment many people at JRC are enduring, that would have been one more thing that horrified the world.  And there are more humane ways to work with people who behave in profoundly challenging ways.  As a result, I signed the petition as soon as I became aware of it, and I hope that other disability rights activists and advocates will, too.