CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Supervisors at North Carolina’s maximum security prisons are being armed with Tasers to break up fights.
The Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday that the devices have been given to hundreds of supervisors at seven maximum-security prisons and will be issued to those in five more.
Tasers are designed to immobilize attackers with high-voltage shocks. Critics worry that stun guns could be fatal for inmates with heart problems.
The American Heart Association’s journal Circulation has found that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest. And an investigation by Reuters identified 104 deaths involving Tasers in prisons and jails.
State Department of Public Safety spokesman John Bull said that a pilot program in several North Carolina prisons began last year. He said the stun guns have been used “sparingly, and judiciously” to stop serious assaults, predominantly those involving a weapon.
Tasers “provide safety and security in the close custody prisons,” Bull said. “They have shown to be effective in stopping serious, in-progress assaults and provide a measure of deterrence.”
But Elizabeth Forbes of North Carolina CURE, a group that advocates for inmates, questioned whether officers would know which inmates had heart conditions that could make them vulnerable to death or serious injury.