Fatal Taser Assaults in US Prisons Expose ‘Torturous’ Abuse

Tasers may seem like an effective tool for preventing needless deaths. Compared to firearms, these electroshock weapons are surely a less cruel way to use force, right?

While Tasers offer a valuable alternative, like any weapon used by law enforcement or guards, they can be abused and misused. A new investigation of Taser use in U.S. jails and prisons reveals a startling number of cases in which inmates were needlessly stunned. And all too often, Tasers have resulted in unwarranted deaths.

Since 2000, at least 104 people in custody have died from Taser assaults. And reports suggest that hundreds of other inmates have been stunned under dubious circumstances. In just two cases, two were armed; around 80 were restrained or immobilized.

One incident involved a pregnant woman named Martini Smith. After being stripped almost entirely naked, Smith was instructed to remove all of her jewelry. Officers then Tasered Smith after she failed to quickly remove a tongue ring. Several days later, she miscarried.

Steve Martin, a former Department of Justice official, explains that the use of Tasers against inmates is often “torturous” and done “for the singular purpose of inflicting pain.” He argues that the environment created in prisons and jails invites this kind of abuse.

Martin believes that most Taser assaults against inmates qualify as “excessive force.” After all, more than two-thirds of the Taser-related deaths since 2000 have resulted in successful wrongful death lawsuits.

These revelations about Taser abuse inside U.S. jails and prisons underscores another seriously overlooked issue within the criminal justice system: the gross neglect and abuse of inmates.

I recently wrote about several inmates who died from treatable ailments after being ignored or outright denied medical treatment. In the wake of President Trump’s hardliner stance against undocumented immigrants, Immigration and Customs Enforcement prisons have become bloated, producing more frequent abuse and deaths. And ICE has only attempted to put an end to documenting these incidents.

The difficult reality is that when it comes to convicts, Americans are largely apathetic, if not downright hostile, toward the civil and human rights that all people — including inmates — are guaranteed under the Constitution. Because these individuals have broken the law, even if it was a non-violent offense, many find little or no capacity for basic compassion.

However, the rights of inmates should be especially important to safeguard. As convicted prisoners and wards of the state, they have had their fundamental freedoms removed. And as a result, they rank among the most vulnerable people in our society.

These institutions are known as departments of corrections — not departments of punishments. How does using a Taser on a handcuffed inmate serve as rehabilitation?

Photo Credit: seanfboggs / Thinkstock

34 comments

DAVID fleming
DAVID f3 days ago

Taser deaths are becoming to frequent .

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Lesa D
Lesa D13 days ago

yet another deadly taser story...

thank you Llowell

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Jim V
Jim Ven22 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim V
Jim Ven22 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O29 days ago

This article is very disturbing to say the least... I guess I have always felt that in countries where someone who has done wilful damage, assault or stolen for example should be publicly caned. Punishment done and taken and lesson learned. No jails where drugs, bullying, corruption, abuse of powers breed like flies costing the rest of the countrymen billions of hard earn cash that could be spent on the many necessary projects like homelessness and child education and the like....But I could be wrong it has always been a thought to me.

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Ellie M
Ellie M29 days ago

ty

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Mike R
Mike Rabout a month ago

Sounds 3rd world.

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Celine Russo
Celine Russoabout a month ago

Prisons: where the new criminals are bred?

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Patrice Z
Patrice Zabout a month ago

Yet another aspect of the very sad state of our DOJ.

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Bill E
Bill Eagleabout a month ago

Our US prison system is a world wide embarrassment. We have more people in our prisons than any other nation in the entire world. Our prisons are designed for punishment, not rehabilitation. Mandatory minimum sentences and a court system that only works for people with money all contribute to this embarrassment.

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