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Wisconsin DOC Unexpectedly Releases Use of Force Video

The Associated Press (AP) settled a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WDOC) for $5,000 in attorney’s fees and an edited copy of a use of force video.

The AP sued the WDOC in October 2009 when it refused to release a video to the ap in a public records request revealing possible excessive use of force by a guard subjecting a single prisoner to a stinger grenade inside his cell. The grenade, a non-lethal device designed for outdoor crowd control, sprays rubber pellets when it explodes with a loud blast and flash of light.

Prior to the request, Raynard Jackson, the victim of the grenade, settled a lawsuit for $49,000 against WDOC, alleging hearing loss and excessive use of force at a prison in Boscobel.

WDOC defended its withholding of the video with concerns of security camera limitations. When it was uncovered that the video was taken with a portable camera and had nothing to do with security cameras, WDOC argued prisoners could use the footage to plan counterstrategies.

However, WDOC agreed to provide a copy of the video to the AP minus portions showing the guards’ use of force preparations in a settlement on November 13, 2009, which included $5,000 in attorney’s fees.

Many legal observers were surprised the video was released to the public, including a Madison attorney Pam McGillivroy, who represents inmates. She said the use of force videos released in her cases were shielded from the public.

In the video, guard Joan Gerl threw a grenade into Jackson’s cell. As she ran away, the blast shook the cell door, which along with its wall, sustained minor damage. Prison officials said it was necessary to remove Jackson from his cell. However, Jackson weighed 135 pounds and was the only prisoner in Wisconsin to be subjected to a stinger grenade. While WDOC admitted no wrongdoing, officials said the grenades would not be used in a cell again. 

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