May 5, 2009
We rarely take time to hand out our Dodo Award, as there are so many noteworthy contenders and so little time. But Sgt. Walter Schmidt, a prison guard at the Franklin Correctional Institute (FCI) in Carrabelle, FL, southwest of Tallahassee, has a noteworthy claim to Pajamadeen’s Dodo Award. Sgt. Schmidt used a stun gun on schoolchildren visiting the prison. (Whatever happened to taking kids to the zoo?)
The FCI was having a heartwarming “”Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day,” so that children could see what Mommy and Daddy do at prison. (Guard prisoners. Feed them. Break up fights. Class dismissed.) To demonstrate what a day in prison might really be like, Schmidt, a 37-year-old arsenal sergeant with 14 years of experience as a correctional officer, took out a 50,000-volt stun gun and zapped the visiting children with it. The schoolchildren, who were between the ages of 8 and 14, “yelped in pain, fell to the ground and grabbed red burn marks on their arms,” according to the St. Petersburg Times. At least two were injured, one of whom went to the hospital. A Department of Corrections (DOC) spokeswoman, Jo Ellyn Rackleff, wrote in an email: “We believe that a number of children may have received a shock.”
The clueless Schmidt told the Times: “It wasn’t intended to be malicious, but educational…The big shock came when I got fired.” Bingo! We have a winner!
Equally shocking is the fact that parents allowed their children to go on the prison field trip in the first place. The FCI, established in 2005, houses about 1,400 adult male inmates — some of whom have life sentences for violent crimes such as rape, murder and…child molestation. What a wholesome place to send the kiddies for the day. And they gave Schmidt permission to shock the children. In a phone interview last week with the Times, Schmidt said he asked parents for permission to shock the kids. “When they said ‘sure,’ I went ahead and did it,” he explained.
None too pleased, Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil has ordered an investigation of the April 24 incident. In his April 27 dismissal letter, FCI Warden Duffie Harrison wrote Schmidt that his “retention would be detrimental to the best interests of the state” because Schmidt 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.”
EIDs (Electronic Immobilization Devices) such as the one Schmidt had are typically used to subdue uncooperative inmates, and work by temporarily disrupting human neural and muscular systems. Unlike a Taser, an EID must be in direct contact with a person to shock them. Its 50,000 volts are 450 times as strong as the current found in a household electrical outlet. Deaths have been attributed to EIDs, although it’s unclear what role factors such as other health problems, including drug use, play in reported fatalities. While we’re unsure what lesson the children learned that day, we’re sure they’ll remember this field trip.
Read about another Dodo award winner.
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