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July 2011



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Archive for July 13th, 2011

Matthew Israel, Founder of Judge Rotenberg, Steps Down in Disgrace

By John M. Grohol, PsyD
Founder & Editor-in-Chief


We missed reporting this at the end of May when it happened, but I like to close the loop on stories we’ve discussed in the past, so I thought it relevant to mention here.


We’ve previously detailed how the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Mass. has a “treatment” for out-of-control children where electroconvulsive shocks are given in order to curb their behavior (ala BF Skinner). We’ve also noted the horror of the incident where a former patient was able to make a single phone call and cause the staff to shock two children in its care over 100 times.


Now, finally, the founder of the school, Matthew Israel, has agreed to step down from the Center in order to avoid prison time. In an agreement reached with the state’s Attorney General, he will be on probation for five years and the Center will be overseen by a court-appointed monitor.



Matthew Israel pleaded not guilty to the charges of obstructing justice by destroying evidence. The evidence he destroyed were copies of videotapes that detailed what happened in August 2007. He claimed, through his lawyer, that he thought the investigation was over and so was just being prudent in destroying the tapes (so they wouldn’t be leaked to the Internet).


Luckily, the state had copies:


Even though prosecutors were ultimately able to find a back-up copy of the destroyed tapes, Cunha said, there was enough evidence that the grand jury indicted Israel Friday on two counts related to misleading a witness and destroying evidence. Cunha said his office ultimately decided to offer Israel a pretrial probation agreement, in which Israel had to permanently end his tenure at the center, which he founded 40 years ago, and serve a five-year probationary term. If he complied, prosecutors would drop the case in five years.


If you’re not clear on what the Center does, here’s a brief description:


Israel’s center endorses an unorthodox behavioral-control method, in which more than half of the center’s 200 students wear electrodes attached to their skin, and staff members, armed with remote devices, can punish them with shocks for deviant behavior. Students generally have severe behavioral problems, including some with autism and intellectual disabilities.


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