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Sen. Joyce Requests Ban on Skin Shock Devices at Canton's JRC

The FDA will conduct a hearing with Judge Rotenberg Center representatives in regards to the use of Graduated Electronic Decelerators, which are used to administer electric shocks to disabled children.

Editor's Note: The following information was provided in a statement by the office of Senator Brian A. Joyce.

Sen. Brian Joyce (D-Milton) has requested the agency ban of painful skin shock devices as part of a testimony submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to a news announcement Wednesday. 

Joyce, who represents Sharon, requested the ban of all Graduated Electronic Decelerators (GED) specifically for use at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton. 

The FDA is expected to conduct a hearing with JRC representatives concerning the use of GED 3A and 4 devices, which are currently used to administer painful electric shocks to disabled children at the Canton facility without FDA approval, according to Wednesday's announcement. 

In May 2011, the FDA notified the JRC that the alterations made to the electric machinery used by staff at the facility to control children's behavior required an FDA determination that the devices could be used legally. 

The JRC, formerly known as the Behavioral Research Center, failed to adequately respond to the request, however, prompting the FDA to send a second letter in June 2012. When the JRC failed to comply, the FDA sent a third notice in December 2012, informing staff at the facility of a meeting between the FDA and the JRC to ensure the facility ceases use of the devices. 

Joyce submitted a testimony requesting the FDA forbid the JRC from using the GED devices on their students moving forward. 

 “The Judge Rotenberg Center has clearly ignored the FDA’s concerns about the use of these skin shock devices for over a year and a half,” said Joyce in a statement. “In that time, many disabled children have been strapped to an unregulated device that emits painful electric shocks for simple misbehavior. The FDA has a unique opportunity to do what some in the Commonwealth have lacked the political will to do: forever stop this barbaric punishment system for severely disabled children.”

The JRC is currently the only school in the United States to use of shock therapy, according to Wednesday's announcement, and the latest issue marks another sign in a history of abuses. 

One such case occurred in 2007, when a prank phone call directed staff to pull two children out of their beds in the middle of the night and shock them while restrained over one hundred times combined, ending in the need for hospital care. 

Later, in 2012, video was released by a court of an incident at the JRC in which 18-year-old Andre McCollins is shown strapped to a table and screaming in pain while staff administers 31 electric shocks to his body. The release of the video created worldwide outrage. 

The use of skin shocks has been declared “torture” by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak.  

Joyce indicated that he would follow the FDA findings closely while still pursuing a ban on aversives in the state Legislature in the upcoming legislative session, according to this week's announcement.

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