The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Massachusetts uses pain to try to change behavior of young people in Massachusetts diagnosed with mental disabilities. Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) investigated, and told the UN it’s “torture.” ABC-TV reports that a UN representative agreed it’s “torture.” MindFreedom International called it “psychiatric torture.” But psychiatrist and Harvard law professor Alan Stone has complained to MindFreedom about this phrase, arguing no psychiatrists are involved.

Update 2 July 2010:

If you choose to communicate with Harvard professor Alan Stone about his concern in the blog entry at the bottom, keep your comments civil.

On behalf of MindFreedom, I maintained civility in my recent dialogue with Dr. Stone. However, apparently as a result of the below blog entry, Dr. Stone reports he received an anonymous e-mail with verbal abuse telling him to “shut the f*** up.”

Dr. Stone told me today on the phone that because of this anonymous abuse, he is ending communication with MindFreedom International.

While MindFreedom International is not responsible for the anonymous abuse Dr. Stone received, we regret this incident. I am proud of MindFreedom’s nonviolence guidelines which are based on the civil rights movement and found here:

We’d also like to remind Dr. Stone that if he has ever commented to any major media – such as NY Times – and afterwards received any abuse from any anonymous reader, I doubt whether he ended all further communication with that major media.

Is there something different about smaller media that is run by activists diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities? I hope there is no implication that “we are all that way,” because one anonymous individual – who does not represent our nonprofit – acted in a negative way. We continue to remain open to dialogue with psychiatric professionals.

If Dr. Stone wishes to criticize the Rotenberg Center, he can do so in any number of ways. We’re waiting to hear him say anything to anyone about their physical abuse. Unfortunately, he is apparently following the dictates of the anonymous e-mail, and choosing silence.

Even though most of our members have experienced physical abuse from mental health care, MindFreedom remains open to civil diaologue with other mental health professionals.

Unfortunately, while Dr. Stone believes his profession of psychiatry – in which he has provided leadership for decades – has zero responsibility for the torture of psychiatric inmates Judge Rotenberg Center, he also feels MindFreedom has responsibility for anonymous people on the Internet.


Original blog entry 30 June 2010:

Photo from Mother Jones investigation of Judge Rotenberg CenterHopefully you’ve seen MindFreedom’s alert today, that tonight – Wed. 30 June 2010 – ABC-TV’s Nightline is covering the excellent investigation by Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) of Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Massachusetts.

JRC openly uses pain to try to change the behavior of young people diagnosed with various mental disabilities, including psychiatric.

A copy of the original alert is at the BOTTOM of this blog entry.

Our alert for MindFreedom International called JRC’s activities “psychiatric torture.”

But Harvard law and medical professor Alan Stone has e-mailed a letter of complaint to us today about our alert, saying that no psychiatrists are “involved” with JRC aversives.

I simply used Google and found, of course, that JRC says it has always employed psychiatrists. I could argue that “employed” sounds like “involved.”

But is that what makes a procedure “psychiatric’?

For instance psychosurgery is done at an institution affiliated with Dr. Stone’s institution, Mass General Hospital. That’s right psychosurgery. That’s the descendent of the lobotomy, where healthy brain tissue is damaged to try to change behavior.

If you don’t believe me, go ahead and use Google with these words:

Massachusetts General Hospital psychosurgery


MGH is very open about their psychosurgery, which is actually quietly catching on again internationally.


So let me get this right. If a surgeon does the psychosurgery… not a psychiatrist… then is this no longer a “psychiatric procedure”?

But my real question is where Dr. Stone stands on things like this. Where does he stand on JRC?

And where does Dr. Stone stand on his own institution’s connection with psychosurgery?

Bottom line:

I think the American Psychiatric Association, which says it’s a leading voice on psychiatry in the USA, ought to take some responsibility for the horrible, outrageous and overwhelming human rights violations done in the name of psychiatry.

I think this moral responsibility applies to all leaders involved with the APA, past and present.

Silence is complicity.

What are your thoughts? Join MindFreedom and post to one of our forums and e-mail lists.

It seems to me the American Psychiatric Association ought to speak up and speak out against the Judge Rotenberg Center. And Dr. Stone ought to speak out against it, too.

So I’ve asked him. BELOW is our dialogue today.

We start with my response, as director of MindFreedom International.

Just below my response is Dr. Stone’s complaints. And at bottom is the original alert.



Begin forwarded message:

From: “David W. Oaks” <>
Date: 30 June 2010 5:46:05 PM PDT
To: Alan Stone
Subject: Re: ABC-TV: Psychiatric torture v MDRI tonight: Nightline 6/30

Thank you, Dr. Stone!!

After 34 years of my working as a grassroots community organizer for human rights in mental health, it’s so good to hear from you Dr. Stone!

I’ve been following your work, myself.

When I was at Harvard, I tried to get into one of your seminars unsuccessfully, so I’d be glad to learn from you now!

But seriously, Dr. Stone, can you please give me your opinion as a psychiatrist of the type of care provided in Rotenberg, according to multiple investigations and press reports? (Please note spelling.)

Do you oppose aversives that are used in the way described?

Also, you seem to have some knowledge of the Center, but I’m confused:

A Google search revealed this page on their web site:

This web site claims, in its discussion of using behavioralism:

“JRC has always employed nurses, speech therapists, physical therapists, psychiatrists, physicians, medical consultants and teachers….”

If psychiatrists are employed there, they would seem to be involved.

So by “involved,” what exactly do you mean?


David W. Oaks ’77






On 30 Jun 2010, at 12:40 PM, Alan Stone wrote:

To my knowledge No Psychiatrist is involved in the aversive treatment at
the Rothenberg Center. I expected better of you having followed your
postings for more than a year. It is wrong to describe what goes on
there as “psychiatric torture”

Alan A. Stone, M.D.
Touroff-Glueck Professor of Law and Psychiatry in the Faculty of Law and
the Faculty of Medicine
Harvard University



ALERT that has phrase “psychiatric torture,” which is a concern of Dr. Stone:

—–Original Message—–

alerts from
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 2:29 PM
Subject: ABC-TV: Psychiatric torture v MDRI tonight: Nightline 6/30

MindFreedom News – Wednesday, 30 June 2010
human rights in mental health – please forward
[to stop these public alerts see bottom]

TONIGHT: Psychiatric ‘torture’ in Massachusetts is focus of
Nightline report

ACTION: You can ask their Governor, “How is this different than


ABC-TV’s “Nightline” show plans to spotlight allegations of
psychiatric torture at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in
Massachusetts, tonight, Wed., 30 June 2010 (barring emerging news).

BELOW is a brief forwarded news release about tonight’s show from
Mental Disability Rights International, a sponsor group of MindFreedom
International that conducted the JRC investigation and has filed
torture charges with the United Nations. At the end is an easy action
you can take to speak out:


MDRI to be featured on ABC Nightline scheduled to air tonight

MDRI documents torture against children and adults with
living at a Massachusetts residential school and files “urgent appeal”
to United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture

Washington, DC – June 30, 2010 – Mental Disability Rights
International’s (MDRI) latest report and “urgent appeal” to the United
Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, to demand the United States
government end the torture of people with disabilities immediately,
will be the topic of tonight’s ABC Nightline.

Torture not Treatment: Electric Shock and Long-Term Restraint in the
United States on Children and Adults with Disabilities at the Judge
Rotenberg Center (JRC), documents the use of electric shocks on the
legs, arms, torsos and soles of feet of children and adults with
disabilities – for weeks, months and sometimes years. JRC uses
punishments as treatment and US advocates have been trying for decades
to close the school and end these practices.

Nightline host, Cynthia McFadden, interviewed MDRI Executive Director
Eric Rosenthal, JD and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on
Torture, Manfred Nowak for the piece.

Laurie Ahern, President of MDRI and author of the report, states, “The
cruelty perpetrated against children and adults at JRC is
psychological and physical abuse, couched in the name of ‘treatment.’
The severe pain and suffering leveled against residents there violates
the United Nations Convention against Torture.”

MDRI is an international human rights organization dedicated to the
rights protection and full participation in society of people with
disabilities worldwide.

ABC Nightline airs at 11:30 pm EST, following your local news. Be sure
and check your local listings.

– end –


For more info:

* Read MDRI’s investigation of Judge Rotenberg Center:

* MindFreedom Blog: Massachusetts mental health system stays still
silent one month later!

See blog entry by David Oaks one month ago about Massachusetts mental
health system silence, which continues today:


*** ACTION *** ACTION *** ACTION ***

Ask Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick to speak out!

Use his web form here:

Sample message, your own words are best:

“Are you aware of the charges of psychiatric torture at the Judge
Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts? Did you know the United Nations has
been asked to intervene? Have you taken a position against this human
rights abuse? How is this different than water boarding?”


Support a united voice by and for survivors of human rights violations
in the mental health system.

Everyone is invited!

Join now and be part of MindFreedom’s 25th anniversary celebration
next year:

Join or renew your membership in MindFreedom International today, here:

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”
– Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.