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Settlement Reached in Class Action Lawsuit Over Taser Use In Jail

A federal judge has approved a settlement agreement reached in a Taser class action lawsuit between Ohio prison inmates and the jailers they claim abused them with the stun guns. 

The class action settlement lays down new rules for the use of Taser stun guns by jail deputies in Franklin County, Ohio. It was approved last month by U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus.

A complaint filed on behalf of four inmates by The Ohio Legal Rights Services accused jail guards of abusing prisoners with the electrical stun weapons. While the settlement dictates how Tasers will be used in Franklin County jail in the future and has provisions for additional Taser training for deputies, the prisoners’ claims of damages from the use of excessive force have not yet been resolved.

Taser guns are designed to incapacitate neuromuscular function by delivering a shock that uses Electro-Muscular Disruption technology. Many law enforcement agencies have deployed the weapons to allow police to incapacitate someone who poses a threat, but there have also been a number of reports of overuse and abuse of the weapons, which could have fatal consequences.

In 2008, Amnesty International released a report on Taser police use, calling for departments throughout the United States to stop using Taser guns or to strictly limit their use to life-threatening situations.

The human rights group linked 334 deaths to the use of Taser guns between 2001 and August 2008. Amnesty International noted that 90% of the Taser deaths examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat to the officers. A large number of the fatalities involved misuse of the weapons, including multiple Taser shocks or exposing suspects to prolonged shocks.

According to a report by The Columbus Dispatch, Franklin County officials did not admit to any wrongdoing on the part of deputies or law enforcement officials in the settlement. The County Prosecutor indicated that the jail deputies were already doing what the settlement requires them to do, and would not speculate on whether the there would be a reduction of Taser use in the jail under the agreement.

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