Tasing prisoners

August 13, 2012

Kincheloe, Mich.—Recently, as I was awaiting a visit at the Control Center at Chippewa Correctional Facility, I observed three facility staff members around a computer monitor. I heard sound from a video they were viewing of an incident earlier that day involving staff use of TASER-manufactured electro-shock weapons on a prisoner in one of the housing units.

I could hear officers in the video yelling at a prisoner and ordering him to go to the back of the cell. After an exchange of words, staff discharged an electro-shock weapon on the prisoner and I could hear the prisoner who was hit hollering.

I heard one of the staff members watching the video utter in an excited tone, “F__k yeah! Took the fight right out of ’em!” A female staff member watching the video immediately began laughing loudly. Staff in the video continued yelling at the prisoner and shortly thereafter discharged another electro-shock weapon projectile. Once again, the prisoner hit by the projectile began to holler in pain. The same female staff member burst into a loud laugh once again.

The following day, prisoners at the facility heard staff members talking and laughing about the tasing incident. Staff also encouraged co-workers to view the video in the Control Center.

Last year the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) added electro-shock weapons to their arsenal as a tool to incapacitate prisoners when MDOC staff deem necessary. The MDOC entered into a $3 million contract with Michigan TASER until 2013.

The recent nauseating events of MDOC staff viewing the tasing video show how electro-shock weapons will be misused against prisoners, and how the sadistic culture of violence and abuse against prisoners will escalate. We will witness a new frontier of inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Not surprisingly, these weapons are being discharged the most at prisons with large numbers of mental health patients. According to a MDOC staffer who asked to remain anonymous, “No special consideration is given to mental health patients or prisoners with physical disabilities before tasing them. We’ve been told to treat each prisoner the same.”

The future of assaulting prisoners with electro-shock weapons and showcasing the incident videos is pregnant with a myriad of dark possibilities. What remains to be seen is the depth of that darkness.

—Efren Paredes

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