A shocking revelation as Albany bill aims to ban ‘adverse conditioning’ treatment at NY taxpayer expense

A shocking revelation as Albany bill aims to ban ‘adverse conditioning’ treatment at NY taxpayer expense

ALBANY – Proposed state legislation would block government agencies from sending disabled people out-of-state for “adverse conditioning” banned in New York nearly 20 years ago.

“Andre’s Law” is named in honor of Andre McCollins, who was shocked with electricity 31 times over seven hours as a teenager in 2002 for refusing to take off his jacket at the Judge Rotenberg Center outside Boston, the only known facility still offering such treatments.

“It isn’t fair that the Judge Rotenberg Center gets a pass to torture our children with special needs. How is this going on for so many years?” Cheryl McCollin, mother of Andre, said at the state Capitol on Monday.

The bill would ban taxpayer spending on “adverse conditioning” at a Massachusetts facility despite a 2004 New York ban on using electric shocks as a behavioral treatment inside the Empire State.

Records show city agencies like the New York City Administration for Children’s Services and the Department of Education have paid at least $7.6 million this year to the Judge Rotenberg Center for child welfare services.

An electrode attached to a person's leg for adverse conditioning with other people's legs around it
People get shocked by electricity when they do some undesired behavior during “adverse conditioning.”

State agencies like the State Education Department and the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, as well as local counties, confirmed they do the placement for NYC’s DOE with the controversial center.

About 100 children and young adults from the Empire State are currently at the center, according to bill advocates, which means New York taxpayer dollars are supporting the center’s use of electric shock whether or not those individuals are specifically getting the so-called treatment.

Jabari Brisport standing at a podium in front of the million dollar staircase in the state capitol.
State Sen. Jabari Brisport expressed confidence Monday the bill can pass before the June 8 end of the 2023 legislative session in Albany.
Zach Williams / NY Post

“To be clear, when we’re sending students over there, we are funding that practice,” state Sen. Jabari Brisport (D-Brooklyn), who is sponsoring the bill in his chamber, told reporters at the Capitol on Monday.

“Adverse conditioning” aims to control behavior by having someone wear a fanny-pack device with wires that attach to an electrode delivering the shock whenever an undesired behavior occurs.

Proponents say helps people deal with conditions like autism.

But critics note the FDA has already tried to ban the treatments though it ultimately decided states have ultimate authority on the matter.

Harvey Epstein standing at a podium with his right hand raised in front of the million dollar staircase in the state Capitol.
Assemblyman Harvey Epstein (D-Manhattan) is sponsoring the legislation in the lower chamber.
Zach Williams / NY Post

The ongoing use of the treatment by New York agencies for children and young adults in Massachusetts means the time has come for state lawmakers to close what they call a loophole in the existing law.

An ACS spokesperson said the child welfare agency oversees payments for placements to the center by the DOE, which told The Post that students are sent there at the “discretion” of their parents. The DOE spokesperson added electroshocks are not supposed to be part of the treatment for children sent by the city.

“The problem is our tax dollars are going to places like the Rotenberg Center to ensure that people get shocked, people get injured, people get harmed,” Assemblyman Harvey Epstein (D-Manhattan), who is sponsoring the bill, said Monday.

“All we’re saying is New York state needs to stop. We need to change course. We need to acknowledge that this type of shocking this type of conditioning is pain.”

Cheryl McCollin spoke at the Capitol on Monday about the experience of her son Andre, who was shocked 31 times at the Judge Rotenberg Center in 2002 after refusing to remove his jacket.
Zach Williams / NY Post

Brisport expressed confidence the bill could pass the state Legislature in the four weeks that remain before the June 8 end of the 2023 legislative session.

A person strapping on an electrode to their leg just above the ankle as part of adverse conditioning.
The Judge Rotenberg Center outside Boston, Mass. is the only known facility in the country still using the much-criticized use of electric shocks for behavior treatments.

But lobbying records show the Judge Rotenberg Center is not going down with a fight after inking a $68,000 contract with a lobbyist.

“The parents and guardians of clients of the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center will continue to work to ensure that that the life-saving electrical stimulation device treatment remains available to those for whom all other treatment options have been tried and failed. Allowing the use of ESDs as part of these clients’ treatment plans is a matter of life or death,” the center said in a statement.


Zach Williams

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