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Corrections sergeant shocks kids with stun gun during prison visit

It was "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" at the Franklin Correctional Institution, and Sgt. Walter Schmidt wanted to give the kids an idea of what their parents do.

So he took out a handheld stun device and zapped them with 50,000 volts of electricity.

The children, whose ages are not available, reportedly yelped in pain, fell to the ground and grabbed red burn marks on their arms. One was taken to a nearby hospital.

DOC spokeswoman Jo Ellyn Rackleff said in an e-mail, "We believe that a number of children may have received a shock."

Schmidt, the arsenal sergeant at the Panhandle prison, said he asked parents for permission to shock the kids.

"When they said 'sure,' I went ahead and did it," he said by phone Friday.

Three days after the April 24 incident, Warden Duffie Harrison wrote Schmidt that his "retention would be detrimental to the best interests of the state" because he had "engaged in inappropriate conduct while demonstrating weapons … to several kids during a special event at the institution.''

"You tased at least two kids to demonstrate the EID, which is in direct violation of procedure and placed the department at risk of litigation," Harrison wrote.

Schmidt was terminated after 14 years with the Department of Corrections.

"It wasn't intended to be malicious, but educational," Schmidt said. "The big shock came when I got fired."

DOC Secretary Walt McNeil expressed concern for the children, whose names were not released, and ordered a full investigation into the matter.

Schmidt said he could not give more details about what happened because of the investigation.

Electronic Immobilization Devices such as the one Schmidt demonstrated are typically used to subdue unruly or uncooperative inmates.

Unlike the Taser, which is fired at a distance and delivers its shock via dart-tipped wires, the EID Schmidt used must be in direct contact with the person to shock them. The 50,000 volts emitted by the device are 450 times as strong as the current in a household electrical outlet.

EIDs work by temporarily disrupting the person's neural and muscular systems. Deaths have been attributed to the devices, though other factors such as drug use and other health problems are often said to play a role.

Meg Laughlin can be reached at mlaughlin@sptimes.com.

Corrections sergeant shocks kids with stun gun during prison visit 05/01/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 4, 2009 3:36pm]
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