While reading the online newspaper the other day looking for any updates on Kelli Murphy's competency hearing that was rescheduled from the 28th of Feb. to the 15th of March I came across this article from the Portland Press Herald.
Initially I thought it must be another punk kid that probably deserved to get pepper sprayed and in hindsight the jail knew they were wrong in dismissing the prison captain and rehired him. It wasn't until I read the article and watched the videos that I realized how dead wrong I was and how unnecessary and cruel the captain's actions were and how appalled I was that he was reinstated. The article is 5 pages long, definitely an in depth article and great investigative journalism, something that we rarely see from reporters that work for MaineToday.com.
Photo taken from Portland Press Herald
Apparently the inmate, Paul Schlosser, had a self inflicted injury on his arm that required a trip to the hospital and needed to be stapled shut. Reportedly one of the aides who first attended to the injury had to take some time off afterwards because the injury was so awful. Schlosser was treated, given pain meds, and told to keep the injury covered.
Schlosser, as shown in the video, was upset that his Ativan (similar to Valium or Xanax) that was prescribed to keep his mood calm was not being properly dispensed. He removed the dressing from his arm and refused to rewrap it until medical came with his meds. In the video he says he is supposed to take the med as prescribed, one tablet every 4 hours but was not receiving at least 2 of his scheduled doses each day. The officer talking to Schlosser acknowledges that he is not receiving the proper dose of meds and all he can do it wait. If he wanted to take his meds as prescribed and on time he shouldn't be in prison. Schlosser is serving a 7 year sentence for attempted robbery in Portland. He is considered a non violent offender and will be 31 years old when he is eligible for release. Before Schlosser became a drug addict and committed crimes (18 prior drug and theft convictions) he was a medic in the military but discharged. He reportedly suffers from bipolar disorder and depression.
Schlosser keeps getting more and more agitated because he can't have a book and his meds so he can't keep his mind off of his injury. Guards see this as an attempt to manipulate the situation. After Schlosser refuses to put his bandage back on guards finally make the decision to restrain him and bring him to the infirmary where he will get his arm rewrapped. Schlosser is compliant as the guards enter the cell and ask him to get on his knees and put his hands behind his back to handcuff him. They decide to put him in the restraint chair so he can not resist when the medic rewraps and treats him. Schlosser remained compliant until one guard pushes his head down onto the chair and Schlosser spits at him. This can be seen here-Partial Video- a short clip of the original 2+ hour footage that is linked below.
Photo taken from Portland Press Herald
The guards are all equipped in their extraction gear complete with face shields. The only officer who is not wearing gear is the Captain, who according to policy, should not have been involved in the extraction but instead should have been only observing the situation from a safe distance. The Captain, Shawn Welch, was instead right in the middle of the extraction next to Schlosser while he was restrained in the chair holding a canister of Pepper Spray that is designed to be used in a crowd and not dispersed closer than 6 feet from the person being sprayed. Welch was about 6 inches from the inmate when he sprayed him with no warning apparently in retaliation from Schlosser spitting at the guard and to keep Schlosser from spitting again. As he sprays Schlosser in the face he warns him not to spit again.
The protocol is not clear on how soon after someone is sprayed with pepper spray that they should be decontaminated but generally anyone who is sprayed is given water right afterwards. Instead of giving Schlosser water guards instead cover his face with a spit mask making the effects of the pepper spray ten times worse by trapping the vapors onto his face, nose, mouth and eye area. Captain Welch continues to taunt the inmate while threatening to spray him again even after the inmate has calmed down, Welch continues to taunt him trying to escalate the situation again.
What was most appalling to watch was that once Schlosser was in the restraint chair he posed no threat to the guards, he was completely subdued. Even spitting should not have been an issue as the guards who were authorized to be handling the extraction were wearing protective face shields. There was no need to administer pepper spray and then to administer pepper spray and then put a spit shield over the inmates face. Inmates have died in restraint chairs because of situations like this.
What is even more appalling is that once this video surfaced, Captain Welch was immediately fired because he violated multiple prison policies, used excessive force and reportedly held a grudge against Paul Schlosser. He appealed the decision and it was denied by Scott Burnheimer, the superintendent of the Maine Correctional Center but the Corrections Commissioner, Joseph Ponte overturned the ruling and reinstated Welch even allowing him to keep the title of Captain. Ponte claims that this was an isolated incident and that Welch's track record was good and he shouldn't be penalized so harshly. He was instead suspended for 30 days.
However, this situation is not the only situation in Maine involving a Captain in the prison system using excessive force on an inmate. David Cutler, 54, a Captain at the Maine State Prison in Warren was recently arrested for tackling and assaulting a handcuffed prisoner on Christmas Eve.
According to the article, the prisoner, Reynardo Williams did nothing more than ask Cutler why black people were treated differently in the prison and that provoked Cutler to attack him.
I am not an advocate for prisoners, in fact, I think that in some cases prisoners are given far too many privileges than they deserve but I don't think that they should be attacked or have excessive force used against them especially in cases where they are already restrained and do not pose a threat to anyone. It is instead an abuse of power given to prison guards and it is unjust especially when someone in an authority position holds a grudge against an inmate because of the color of their skin or because they want their meds as prescribed. They may be inmates or prisoners and have committed a crime but they are also someone's son or daughter or their sibling or their parent.
Paul Schlosser's Mother Watching The Video. Taken from the Portland Press Herald
Reading the comments under the different articles the responses are mixed. Some feel that the treatment of the prisoners, especially Paul Schlosser, was a disgusting abuse of power but others feel that because he is an inmate and was acting out he got what he deserved. I am curious as to what you all think.
Below is the link to the full 2+ hour raw footage obtained by a reporter at the Portland Press Herald if you are interested in watching the footage in its entirety.