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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Condemns Judge’s Decision to Allow Electric Shocks to Continue

The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is appalled and outraged by the recent decision of a Massachusetts judge to allow the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) to continue administering electric shocks to disabled individuals as behavior ‘treatment’. We stand with countless other disability rights organizations and advocates in opposing this cruel ruling.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingDespite opposition from disability rights organizations, previous residents, parents and advocates, JRC continues to use electric shock devices as behavioral treatment on disabled individuals. Even in the face of decades of evidence showing these devices to be both dangerous and cruel, and even after the United Nations (UN) condemned the use of these devices as torture, JRC continues to be the one and only institution in the country to continue this practice.

In Judge Field’s decision, she wrote that Massachusetts officials did not prove that the practice fails to conform to “the accepted standard of care for treating individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of NCIL, said of the ruling: “The judge’s decision is appalling. There is no question that the use of these devices causes lasting harm to disabled people. For Judge Field to so blatantly disregard the safety and well-being of JRC residents is completely despicable.” 

NCIL has a long history of opposing the use of these devices. We will continue to oppose this practice and will continue to advocate against the JRC’s use of these devices.

On a related note, in April of 2016 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published proposed regulations to ban the use of electrical stimulation devices as behavioral treatment. More than two years later, they still haven’t finalized the regulations. Enough is enough! By releasing the regulations and implementing the ban on these devices, the JRC would no longer be allowed to use these devices. We urge the FDA to release the final regulations so this terrible practice can be stopped once and for all.


  1. Mariah Rackliff says:

    This is barbaric and cruel. There are countless adverse side effects to electrical stimulation. The FDA needs to ban the use of this forced treatment. It is long overdue. This is inhumane treatment of vulnerable individuals. I would not shock my dog, let alone a person. It is disgusting.

    • The barbarous, cruel, incredibly destructive is not only electroconvulsive therapy. Barbarous, unacceptable any forced “treatment”. Forced “treatment” must be banned.

  2. If Nazi Germany was anything, it was a troubled society which provided institutional access and license for the inflicting of sustained cruel and unmerciiless torture by one small segment of a society upon another. In destroying it we failed to recognize that this is a hydra headed human phenomenon. It had grown and multiplied in our own society, is ubiquitous and needs to be powerfully confronted with wisdom and compassion.

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