Matthew Israel avoids prison – just

25 May

According to the Boston Globe, Matthew Israel will step down from the Judge Rotenberg Center as part of a package to avoid doing jail time.

The founder of the controversial Judge Rotenberg Educational Center is scheduled to face criminal charges in Dedham today arising from a night in 2007 when two special needs teenagers at the center were wrongfully administered dozens of electrical shocks…In a deal reached with the state attorney general’s office, Matthew Israel, 77, is expected to be spared prison time in return for stepping down from the Canton-based center that he founded 40 years ago and accepting a five-year probationary term…The charges against Israel are believed to be related to the destruction of some of the center’s digital surveillance tapes that would have showed what occurred the night of Aug. 26, 2007

Shame. If anyone deserves jail time its Matthew Israel.

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20 Responses to “Matthew Israel avoids prison – just”

  1. stanley seigler May 25, 2011 at 19:50 #

    to quote a reliable source, “about like al capone charged with income tax evasion.”

    stanley seigler

  2. Sullivan May 25, 2011 at 20:32 #

    One has to wonder how many more tapes have been destroyed. How many acts that would put the JRC into a bad light just got erased.

  3. McD May 25, 2011 at 22:22 #

    I wondered why there was no response by someone from the JRC on the earlier post mentioning it. They tend to keep an eye out and comment when they are mentioned.

    I will see if I can pick up any goss over the next few days and return and report!

  4. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 25, 2011 at 22:40 #

    *reads Stanley’s comment and nods*

  5. Jackie May 26, 2011 at 01:01 #

    Kev, et al.

    Thank you for inflicting pain – you did make a difference a few years back.

    If it is any comfort to your community, I don’t believe the two teenagers who were shocked in the horrorable incident that brought the Doctor down were autistic.

    This incident is the first real test of the Milgram experiment. Milgram could never actually inflict high level shocks, so there was always some doubt. So JRC’s legacy will be that, as in the Holocaus, obedience to authority figures over rides morals and ethics in a very high percentage of people.

  6. Nicole May 26, 2011 at 09:09 #

    It doesn’t matter if they are autistic or mentally I’ll or otherwise disabled- they are human beings who were tortured in the name of a treatment that doesn’t even work. And even ifmit did work you have to question if the benefit is worth the cost, especially when there are so many evidence based protocols out there that are far more humane.

    Hopefully this encourages the JRC to discontinue the use of the GED and similar protocols and hopefully embrace modern medical and educational techniques beyond classical operant conditioning.

  7. Jackie May 26, 2011 at 12:38 #

    I don’t believe the two teenagers in question were by any clinical definition “disabled”. The JRC takes anyone provided they get the $200,000+ per year.

    But as I posted in 2006, the worst abuse at JRC is not the shocks.

    The worst punishment is when food is withheld from a child for bad behavior. Every child’s behavior deteriorates when food is withheld so JRC becomes directly responsible for the behavior for which the child is being punished.

    The Doctor deserves to spend the rest of his life in a cell in the Hague.

  8. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 26, 2011 at 13:32 #

    “The case marks a dramatic turn in the career of the Harvard-trained psychologist, though it does not appear to end the center’s unorthodox practices that have generated national controversy: the use of skin-shock treatments to discipline behaviorally troubled children.” (from the Boston.com article)

    Sadly, Nicole, I’m not sure that this case will be what puts the electro-shock stuff to bed once and for all. And here’s what I – as a psychologist – find hardest to accept: that the JRC way of doing things is actually based on operant conditioning. If it were, there’d be no electro-shock punishments, since Skinner eschewed punishment. He was totally against it.

    This necessarily pessimistic outlook on the place depresses me, of course. I don’t like the thought of that stuff happening to anyone. But one has to be realistic, and the realistic view is that they will try to keep the same thing going by claiming – on the basis of unpublished ‘research’ – that their system works and that it should remain in place. Sensible and humane people, of course, will not agree with this, and will continue to argue for its abolition.

    And, FWIW, the two points you opened up with are very much supported by research. Which is why the JREC do not publish in regular journals.

  9. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 26, 2011 at 13:34 #

    Jackie: “The worst punishment is when food is withheld from a child for bad behavior. Every child’s behavior deteriorates when food is withheld so JRC becomes directly responsible for the behavior for which the child is being punished.”

    Well said!

  10. McD May 26, 2011 at 16:17 #

    Skinner would be rolling in his grave.

    They stress so much that they base their program on ‘research’ but ignore eveything on the side-effects of punishment that has been done over the past 60-odd years, and ignore what Skinner had to say on the matter himself.

    I accidently interviewed for a research position at the JRC in 2004 – before I knew what the center was all about. What sort of wierded me out right at the start was having to list all the works of B.F. Skinner that I had read, and state what sort of behaviorist I was (methodological, radical, etc)(I actually tend towards Kantor and interbehaviorism). I had just finished Walden Two. There is no way Skinner would approve of the JRC program.

  11. daedalus2u May 26, 2011 at 21:04 #

    Lets hope they can get him with a civil suit. When you destroy evidence and obstruct justice and a civil suit is filed, that is a case that you have to settle because you will lose if it goes to trial.

    Actually if they were juveniles when it happened, they can sue now that they are adults. A guardian doesn’t have the right or the authority to sign away a juvenile’s right to sue for maltreatment or malpractice.

  12. McD May 27, 2011 at 02:05 #

    Well, quite a crowd of JRC parents are setting up a stand at the ABAI convention, no JRC stand/staff I could make out, just a JRC parent group. And just a couple of stands down from Autism Speaks. They have booked out double the space the normal exhibitors take. But the material posted on their boards looks very similar to the stuff I recall from the old JRC stand from a few years ago (very attractive JRC facilities and the like). So IIRC, the same promotional material has been passed from the JRC centre to a JRC parent advocacy group.

    I loitered around trying to get someone to talk to me but no luck. OK, I know you are supposed to ‘catch someone’s eye’, my usual method is to start fiddling with something breakable, they didn’t have anything out yet.

    As I understand it, JRC have very few BCBAs on staff – quite possibly people like me, who interview for a position at their ‘positive behavior program’ and actually take it up before realising what they have gotten in to. If my wee lad hadn’t got his diagnosis, which prevented us from getting insurance and working overseas, I might have found myself stuck there, cripes!

    One of the key criticisms of the GED program was that it was run by ‘mental health aides’ who don’t have behavior analysis training (or tertiary education either). And they don’t use functional behavior analysis at all, and claim that it is irrelevant with their more ‘effective’ methods, so I am buggered if I know why they bother turning up. Anyway, they do send their few BCBAs here to get a bit of BA cred each year.

    From the informational material on the exhibitors’ boards they have set up you would think that they were offering a positive only program (in fact it says “A Positive Behavior Program” in big letters). There is nothing to indicate strapping the kids into restraints and administering electric shock for minor misdeeds a day or so after they are committed. I told my room-mates about that – a PhD, and a nearly PhD in behavior analysis – and they were gob-smacked, it just goes against everything we have learned from behavior research in the last half century or so.

    Anyway, Matthew Israel is on the program. He is presenting a paper on charting, and then chairing a symposium involving a quartet of JRC presenters. None of which appear to involve aversives, for example the first paper is about money as a reinforcer for academic performance. You can see how I accidentally interviewed for them. There is very little to indicate that the majority of students are on a punishment-based program.

    What could be quite interesting is a poster MI is down as 4th author on, which is a follow-up study of former JRC students. I will check that one out. I have not attended ABAI since my son was diagnosed – spending nearly 2 weeks overseas was not possible till now – but I recall they used to have quite a few posters. There is only the one that I see this year.

    So I am tempted to attend the symposium if there is not a more interesting verbal behavior one on at the same time. I did not fly half way around the world to listen to a lecture on charting though, I would rather stick pins in my eyes.

    I have a few questions I want to ask some of the JRC staff, based on this review:
    http://www.normemma.com/advocacy/artjrcrvw.htm

    I also agree with comments made above about food deprivation. Frankly, I didn’t think that could be possible, when I did the interview they described replacing yummy food with bland but nutritious gruel. But it turns out they do indeed deprive children of food – or did in 2006.

    The thing that made Skinners radical behaviorism ‘radical’ was that he took into account internal states – feelings and emotions. These are behaviors too. Skinner’s view was that the technology just didn’t exist to measure those things then. But that they did exist. And they interacted with verbal behavior. That made it ‘radical’. Somehow Israel missed the point somewhere – in spite of his claims, his practice owes more to Watson and methodological behaviorism. Archaic stuff.

  13. The nonHELP Group May 27, 2011 at 06:53 #

    They’re not the only behavior-based US school employing food deprivation.

  14. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 27, 2011 at 17:32 #

    “Skinner would be rolling in his grave.”

    That would be B. F. Spinner you’re referring to. He’d be more than rolling in his grave, I would say.

    “… ignore eveything on the side-effects of punishment that has been done over the past 60-odd years, and ignore what Skinner had to say on the matter himself.”

    This is what I find so appalling about their philosophy – which does not seem based at all on Skinner’s work. I see JRC as basically being the ultimate act of disloyalty to one’s thesis supervisor: Israel makes much of having had Skinner as his supervisor but behaves as if he thought that Skinner was talking bollocks.

    “There is no way Skinner would approve of the JRC program.”

    You’re not wrong there. I’m amazed that the Massachusetts state legislature approve of it, to be honest.

    “From the informational material on the exhibitors’ boards they have set up you would think that they were offering a positive only program (in fact it says ‘A Positive Behavior Program in big letters). There is nothing to indicate strapping the kids into restraints and administering electric shock for minor misdeeds a day or so after they are committed. I told my room-mates about that – a PhD, and a nearly PhD in behavior analysis – and they were gob-smacked, it just goes against everything we have learned from behavior research in the last half century or so.”

    I’m not surprised that your roomies would gob-smacked… I see nothing Skinnerian about the JRC at all, and the only thing relating to behaviour that could be legitimately called positive is the nature of the punishment regime they use at JRC. Which is no small misnomer, I think. That place has ‘behaviour research’ lessons … have you heard about that? If not, be careful: they are bloody horrible.

    “You can see how I accidentally interviewed for them. There is very little to indicate that the majority of students are on a punishment-based program.”

    That’s because Matthew Israel misuses Skinner’s name and misleads people about that the place is based on. Nobody could blame you for being interviewed there. You’d know nothing about the true nature of the place until you got right inside it.

    “The thing that made Skinners radical behaviorism ‘radical’ was that he took into account internal states – feelings and emotions. These are behaviors too.”

    I’d disagree that they are behaviours as such, but they are states of being that must be understood in order to understand behaviour (this being what I like about Skinner’s work).

    “Skinner’s view was that the technology just didn’t exist to measure those things then. But that they did exist. And they interacted with verbal behavior.”

    Yeh …

    “That made it ‘radical’. Somehow Israel missed the point somewhere – in spite of his claims, his practice owes more to Watson and methodological behaviorism. Archaic stuff.”

    Israel misses it completely, no? He does seem to owe more to Watson… but even Watson wasn’t the sort of bastard that Matthew Israel is. Yes, very archaic stuff.

    And disturbing, too.

    Glad you didn’t end up working there.

  15. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 27, 2011 at 17:33 #

    McD, there is a post in moderation responding to yours. It agrees with your points.

  16. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. May 28, 2011 at 15:35 #

    McD … going back to your comment above, I went to that review and had a look. I think we’d both agree on what I’m about to say next.

    “The behavioral program model at JRC is based on a Skinnerian (behavioral) approach”

    No, it isn’t.

  17. Interverbal June 1, 2011 at 07:04 #

    Just my two-pennies worth.

    Skinner’s record on physical aversives is somewhat mixed. He consistently wrote against the use of punishing procedures in general (and not just physical aversives). His written work was to help justify banning the use of aversives in schools in California. On the other hand he repeatedly defended Dr. Israel’s work. It seems most accurate to me, to say that Skinner advocated against punishment in general, except in cases where he believed the person to temporarily beyond the reach of reinforcement. Whether Skinner is justified in thinking so is another issue entirely.

    I really don’t want to get into a pah-tah-toe, poe-tay-toe argument, but to me the punishing contingencies employed by Israel et al. are clearly operant.

    Before
    Student does not receive shock
    Behavior
    Student head-bangs
    After
    Student receives shock

    That is a pretty cut and dry Positive Punishment contingency.

  18. Ursula Janes July 6, 2011 at 19:45 #

    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts should shut down and permanently close the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center. Punishing these helpless children obviously does not in turn promote their good behavior.

    Matthew Israel’s behavior is nothing but sadistic.

    He should be subjected to his own punishments that he unfoundedly inflicts on his prey.

    He should be jailed.

  19. Rose Chand January 9, 2013 at 23:48 #

    He should be subjected to the treatment these children received. Imagine being subjected to this treatment . Would you do this to your own children,I think not. This man has a very sick mind and should be jailed for such abuse. This horrible
    place should be burned to the ground.

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