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Florida DOC Curtails Use of Stun Belts

After several Florida circuit judges ordered the state prison system to stop using stun belts on prisoners, DOC Chief of Operations James Upchurch ordered the routine use of the of the belts temporarily discontinued, the Palm Beach Post reported in its 23 September, 1999, edition.

State officials say they are investigating why a stun belt malfunctioned June 9, 1999, repeatedly shocking a prisoner who was being transported to the state's sexual predator center (civil commitment detention facility) in Martin County.

Richard Hudson, 30, was being transported to the Martin Treatment Center in a state prison van when the remote-control stun belt discharged, delivering 50,000 volts into his body. The transport guards pulled off the road after they "heard Hudson yelling and kicking the security barrier in the van," prison records obtained by the Post state. The guards say they used a key to disable and remove the belt.

"[Hudson] described an intense pain," said Assistant Public Defender Nellie King of West Palm Beach, "and said he thought he blacked out when he was flopping around in the back of the van with 50,000 volts of electricity going through him -- and it went off twice. These things are torture devices."

Hudson had two burn marks where the belt's electrodes sent shocks into his back, said King, and he continued to have bladder and kidney problems nearly four months after the incident.

Florida DOC spokesperson Debbie Buchanan said that state officials suspect the belt may have been stored in a damp area, creating a short that caused it to discharge accidentally.

Dennis Kaufman, president of Ohio-based Stun Tech Inc., manufacturer of the device, would not comment. But previous reports have alleged that his company's stun belts have been "accidentally" discharged more times than they have been intentionally activated.

Source: Palm Beach Post

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