Facing Criminal Charges, Matthew Israel Leaves Judge Rotenberg Center

Matthew Israel, founder of the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), has agreed to resign from the center under a plea bargain agreement to resolve criminal charges filed in the Norfolk County Superior Court involving JRC’s use of electric shock on two teenagers, the Boston Globe reports. The charges of misleading a grand jury and accessory after the fact to a crime apparently relate to the destruction of surveillance tapes that would have showed the teenagers being repeatedly shocked by JRC staff on the instructions of a prank caller.

The plea bargain agreement places Israel on probation for five years and provides that a court-approved monitor will oversee the center’s activities. The Judge Rotenberg Center has received worldwide condemnation for its use of electric shock, restraint, and other abusive practices on children with developmental disabilities and emotional and behavioral issues. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating the center in March 2010 after the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and other disability rights organizations submitted a joint letter asking the DOJ to take action to stop its inhumane practices. Click here to read the joint letter.

Despite the widespread criticism of its practices and the injuries and deaths that have occurred at the facility, the Judge Rotenberg Center is still licensed to operate as a special-needs school in Massachusetts, and its governing board has announced that it is seeking a successor to take Israel’s place. Prompt action by Massachusetts legislators is needed to ensure that the JRC’s abuse of children with disabilities does not continue.