Wisconsin state correctional officers are being outfitted with pepper spray and supervisors with Tasers in hopes of cutting back on prison assaults and injuries, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The plan is being rolled out as the state releases a first-of-its-kind report that shows there were 351 assaults, attempted assaults and assault-related injuries for staff from mid-2012 to mid-2013. For years, data on assaults has been poorly tracked.
Officers in Wisconsin prisons are not armed, primarily to avoid the risk of inmates getting their hands on guns. Corrections Secretary Ed Wall said he was equipping officers with 3-ounce cans of pepper spray to help prevent and break up assaults. “It stops the assault so they can get their hands on people,” Wall said. Its deterrent effect increases once inmates have seen it in use, he said. “You known once you get sprayed with it, you don’t want to get sprayed again,” Wall said. Marty Beil of the Wisconsin State Employees Union is concerned inmates could steal pepper spray and use it against officers. “That’s a two-edged sword,” Beil said. “That pepper spray can be taken off an officer as quickly as it can be used by an officer.”