clipped from www.motherjones.com
In Massachusetts, Matthew Israel’s critics have been trying to put him out of business for more than two decades. The first major battle took place in 1985—before Israel even started using shocks—after a 22-year-old student named Vincent Milletich died while in restraints at one of Israel’s homes. The state Office for Children tried to close down Israel’s facility, but he fought back with a lawsuit and a PR blitz. (For example, much as he does with journalists today, Israel showed videos of his methods to pioneering behaviorist B.F. Skinner, who was famously opposed to the use of painful punishments known as « aversives. » Skinner then issued a statement saying that such extreme patients might require aversive therapy.) In the end, Judge Ernest Rotenberg, for whom the facility is now named, decreed that the program could stay open, though Israel would have to obtain court approval every time he wanted to use aversive therapy on a student.
In the mid-1990s, Massachusetts again tried to close down Israel’s program—which by then had started to use electric shocks—and again he prevailed. This time, a judge declared that the state Department of Mental Retardation had waged a « war of harassment » against Israel, accused its commissioner of lying on the witness stand, stripped the agency of its power to regulate Israel’s facility, and ordered the state to pay the $1.5 million in legal fees and other costs that Israel had racked up. The commissioner was forced to resign, a cautionary tale for any other state official thinking of taking on Israel.