UN Calls for Investigation of Taser ‘Torture’ in US Jails

After investigating extreme wealth inequality in the United States, the United Nations is now turning its attention to another serious issue: excessive use of Tasers by American law enforcement.

I recently explored the frequency of Taser incidents in U.S. jails. Often, Tasers were largely unnecessary, even prompting a former Department of Justice official to describe the use of these weapons as “torture” meant only to inflict pain.

In more than 100 cases, individuals died from the effects of Tasers, and the vast majority of Taser incidents involved an unarmed — or even a confined or restrained — inmate.

In one particular case, Cheatham County Sheriff’s deputies tied a Tennessee inmate named Jordan Norris to a chair and stunned him at least four times — with one shock lasting 25 seconds. Norris was later found to have over 40 pairs of burn marks made by a Taser, indicating that he was likely stunned at least 20 times.

Videos, including the one below of Norris’ abuse, provide a compelling example of how Tasers are not always used for safety purposes, but frequently as a cruel form of punishment. Please note that this footage may be disturbing for some viewers.

These recently exposed incidents have drawn the attention of the UN special rapporteur on torture who has condemned the frequent use of Tasers in states like Ohio, Arkansas and Tennessee. And this statement came paired with a call for a formal probe. Though not explicitly stated, it’s likely that if the U.S. to fails to conduct its own Taser investigation — and make meaningful changes — the UN will seek to carry out their own probe.

Though such a move from the UN might be viewed as toothless in the past, the increasing tension between the UN and the U.S. under the Trump administration could very well prompt action. Trump has not been especially coy on his opinion of the international body, at one point even threatening to withdraw the U.S. from the UN Human Rights Council.

Trump’s recent attempt to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel was taken to the UNHRC for a vote recently — and thoroughly shot down. It some ways, Trump’s open animosity toward the UN could lessen the country’s sway with the organization. And given the UN’s wealth inequality report and the condemnation of Taser “torture,” this is not an outlandish assessment.

Now that these incidents are being recognized by the international community, hopefully Taser use and excessive use of force will stop flying under the radar — and perhaps law enforcement officers will think twice before abusing their power.

Photo Credit: SC Air National Guard/Flickr

75 comments

DAVID f
DAVID fleming22 hours ago

Abuse in any form is wrong

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Danii P
Danii P3 days ago

TYFS

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Jim V
Jim V13 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim V
Jim V13 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Marc P
Marc P13 days ago

Clare O'Beara: You state, "Very sad and wrong. However, I can see that many of these prisoners have nothing to lose by misbehaviour." the real problem is that inmates have nothing to gain by engaging in GOOD behavior. There is no reward in U.S. prisons. Only punishment, more punishment, and misery. People come from that damaged, broken, and angry.

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Marc P
Marc P13 days ago

Now that we all have the time to say "Thanks for sharing," how about we spend the same amount of time on the phone telling senators in these states we will NOT be voting for people or political parties that do not enact and enforce laws to protect inmates from this abuse...

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Janis K
Janis K15 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R15 days ago

Thank you for posting.

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Teresa F

OH MY GOD, HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN , PLEASE STOP THIS TORTURE NOW!

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Shirley S
Shirley S18 days ago

A worthwhile investigation for sure.

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