What’s happening at the Judge Rotenberg Center?

The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is an institution in Massachusetts for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), mental health disabilities, and learning disabilities, including many autistic people. The people held at the JRC are disproportionately Black and brown. The Judge Rotenberg Center tortures some of the people living there using an electric shock device called a Gradual Electronic Decelerator (GED). Children and adults at the JRC are forced to wear the GED on their bodies. Using a remote control, someone else can use the GED to give an electric shock to the person wearing it. The JRC uses the GED as an “aversive:” they use the pain of the electric shock to punish people for doing certain things. For more information about ASAN’s work to end the device, see our issue tracker. To find out how you can help #StopTheShock, read on!

As you likely know, Congress passed a ‘clean’ version of the FDASLA that did not include the ban on electric shock devices. Congress’ failure to ban the use of electric shock torture at the Judge Rotenberg Center is outrageous and frustrating, but we will not be deterred.

We have another legislative opportunity coming up: the end of the year omnibus bill. An omnibus bill is a bill that covers a lot of different ways the government will spend money, so we are able to include things like this ban.

For decades, the disability community has worked to ban the use of electric shock torture at the Judge Rotenberg Center. The JRC is the only institution in the United States that still uses this practice, something the United Nations classified as torture in 2013. Thanks to your advocacy, we’ve seen the FDA finalize regulations that banned the manufacture, distribution, and use of skin shock devices. But in an infuriating decision, the ban was overturned last year, leaving students with intellectual and developmental disabilities still subject to electric shocks to control their behavior.

What can we do about it?

Ways You Can Act Now!
  • Write an op-ed or letter to the editor for your local newspaper letting your neighborhood know why it is so important to #StopTheShock. We provide a template to help you get started. Be sure to send us the article once it is published!

Your advocacy is what has gotten us here today, and your advocacy is what will make sure we #StopTheShock.

Past Campaigns

In the fall of 2022, we fought for the inclusion of the GED ban in the FDASLA, a must-pass bill about the FDA. While the House included the ban in their version of the bill, the Senate passed a “clean” version stripping this out and other important aspects. This is incredibly disappointing as Senators would rather cave to pressure instead of doing their jobs.

In May of 2022, ASAN ran a campaign to demand that ABAI, the governing body of ABA practitioners, remove the JRC as a sponsor, vendor, and presenter, and bar them from future conferences. We hosted a virtual and in-person protest, flooding their conference hashtags and passing out flyers in Boston where it was held. You can learn more about ABAI with our fact sheet here.

On Wednesday, May 4th, the New York State legislature stood with disability rights advocates in announcing new legislation targeting facilities that use electric shocks on people with disabilities. The bill, “Andre’s Law,” is named in honor of Andre McCollins, a survivor of electric shock torture and other forms of aversive conditioning. Andre’s Law resulted in a huge state mobilization, the type of pressure that is key to finally putting an end to this barbaric practice. While the New York state legislature entered recess before the bill could be passed this term, the widespread, bipartisan support Andre’s Law garnered indicates the importance of similar legislation at the federal level.


Download Stop The Shock Factsheet PDF here

Download Stop The Shock Leave Behind Letter as a PDF here

Download Stop The Shock Leave Behind Letter as a Word Doc here

Download Stop The Shock Hill Visit Talking Points