By Cynthia McFadden, Kevin Monahan and Adiel Kaplan: For Complete Post, Click Here…
Rico Torres was just eight the first time school staffers strapped electrodes to his legs and shocked him. They draped a 12-volt battery over his shoulders in a backpack, while a nearby teacher held a clear plastic box with a photo of his face attached. When Torres misbehaved, the teacher would reach inside the box and push a button that sent a two-second jolt of electricity coursing through his body.
Under his court-approved treatment plan, Torres could be shocked for threatening to hit another student or for running away, swearing or screaming, refusing to follow directions or “inappropriate urination,” according to court records obtained by NBC News. One employee, he said, used to shock him in his sleep.
“Because I didn’t wake up, she shocked me,” recalled Torres, now 24. “Then I ended up peeing the bed, so she shocked me again.”
The electrodes stayed on his skin 24 hours a day for most of a decade, until he was 18. The device, called a graduated electronic decelerator (GED), was part of his treatment at Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Mass., which has for half a century been one of the most controversial institutions for people with disabilities in the country. It’s thought to be the only place in the world that uses electric shocks to modify behavior — a treatment the United Nations has called torture.
In early March last year, just one week before the declaration of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration took the rare step of banning the device, finding that the significant risk of harm outweighed any medical benefit it could bring. It is only the third such ban in the agency’s history.
The ban should have meant victory for those fighting the school, but more than a year later, it hasn’t actually changed anything. Due to court battles and the pandemic, none of the 55 residents currently approved for treatment with the device will be required to transition off it until further legal decisions. If past litigation over the school’s use of the GED is any indication, that could be years.