The Shelby County Sheriff's Office is saying they are having good luck with a new compliance device in the courtroom, even with the County's most violent of inmates.
Stun cuffs on the market pack a punch of up to 80-thousand volts and have a range of 100 yards. But, as in our local jail at the Criminal Justice Center down at 201 Poplar, the devices are not allowed to be applied directly to an inmate's skin. They have to be placed on top of a sock or other material first. They still leave a burn.
Just the threat of using the device has been enough to stop most inmates from acting up.
Career criminal Curtis Keller has made a name for himself. Keller, who is over 6 feet tall and 300 plus pounds, is to date the only inmate to get a taste of the cuffs. He got a warning zap from one after repeated threats and outbursts in court.
After that, officers with the detention response team in charge of transporting Keller from the jail to court say they didn't have to use it again.
"I didn't get two steps into the room when Curtis jumped out of his chair and hit me as hard as he could in the arm right here," said Keller's defense attorney Mark Mesler.
Keller had been kicked out of court for holding up a sign claiming there was mass corruption in the system when Mesler mentioned he may not call a witness in Keller's case. Mesler says that set Keller off.
"I stepped out of the room. The deputies came in and grabbed him. Once in their control he started yelling I was a sellout, I had done all of this," recalled Mesler.
Jesse Dotson is another inmate familiar with a stun cuff. Dotson, who killed 6 people including children, had a stun cuff strapped to his ankle during court transports before being shipped to death row.
"If they're going to behave inappropriately, attack people, act like they're going to do something aggressive in the courtroom should understand what's coming their way," said Mesler.
Before any inmate gets assigned a shock device, they get a full demonstration.
Inmates aren't the only ones briefed on the power of the stun cuff. DRT members at the jail get 8 hours of training and they have to experience the stun cuff first hand.
"It lasts for like 3 seconds," explained Sgt. Louis Bryant. "3 seconds feels like a long, very long time."
The Shelby County Sheriff's Office says it's purchased 3 stun cuffs at about 1-thousand dollars a pop so it could crack down on courtroom outbursts.
"When things start to go bad in a courtroom and someone realizes they are about to spend a significant amount of time in jail I think these procedures are necessary. Anything can happen," said Mesler.
Chief Larry Young explained, "this has been a really good compliance device that officers feel very comfortable in using and utilizing because they would much rather do that than get into a physical confrontation."
The stun cuffs might just be at 201 Poplar to stay. Judges are signing off on their usage in warrants needed to use them on an inmate.
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