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Michigan Department of Corrections spent about $107,000 on Tasers for five prisons

Published: Tuesday, December 20, 2011, 2:45 PM
By
Danielle Salisbury | Jackson Citizen Patriot

The Michigan Department of Corrections has purchased 100 Tasers at a cost of about $107,000 to put to use at five state prisons as part of a pilot program. 

By the first week in January, five to 10 staff members on each shift could be carrying the electroshock devices on their hips inside the facilities, said Edward Mize, department operations administrator. 

Mize said training began in early December and will be completed by next month. 

Wardens selected the employees who would receive the instruction. “We targeted the staff members responsible for immediate response to an assault or fight within the facility,” Mize said.  

In addition to the cost of the Tasers, the department spent about $15,000 on training equipment, Mize said. In total, the implementation of the devices cost about $125,000. 

Mize said the money did not come from a phone service fund, as some people thought.  

Prisoner phone rates were increased this year and the fund is to be used for security equipment, according to past reports. 

Tasers later might be purchased using money from the fund, Mize said. “We clearly would evaluate if that is something appropriate to use those funds for, yes.” 

If after a minimum of six months, the Tasers are deemed appropriate or affective at the five facilities, their use could be expanded across the state. Each device cost about $1,070 and every facility likely would need about 20, Mize said. As of January, there will be 32 open prisons in Michigan. 

The prisons now being equipped with Tasers include Alger Correctional Facility in Munising, Michigan Reformatory in Ionia and the Ionia, Carson City and St. Louis correctional facilities. 

These prisons were selected because they have a high number of assaults involving multiple prisoners, a prisoner on a staff member or prisoners with weapons, Mize said. 

The department hopes by implementing Taser use, the number of work-related injuries will fall. 

Director Dan Heyns earlier said the department spent about $20 million last year on workers’ compensation claims. 

Mize said other states where corrections staff carry Tasers have reported a 20 to 50 percent reduction in employee or prisoner injuries related to altercations. 

Officers will use a Taser when some lesser use of force is not affective or to stop an inmate from assaulting another inmate or staff member, Mize said. 

"If nothing else, verbal commands and the warning a Taser will be deployed will stop some of the aggression in several situations," Mize said. 

Officers will have a Taser X26 or Taser X2, both of which have recording capabilities. Information about each deployment can be downloaded onto a computer. This allows the department to negate a "great deal" of any potential abuse, Mize said. 

Every time a Taser is triggered, even if accidentally, a report will be done, Mize said. The reports are to be reviewed to see what is working and whether policy or training needs tweaking, said Mize, who once agreed to be Tased. 

"They work very well," said Mize, who also serves as commander of the state emergency response teams. 

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