When controversial Internet blogger Jeff Weinhaus goes to trial next month, he won’t be wearing a traditional restraint.
Weinhaus will be the first Franklin County Jail inmate to wear a Stun Cuff, a wearable taser device the county recently purchased.
“It is designed for transports and to try to make in-custody trials a little safer and easier to manage,” Capt. Dave Boehm, jail superintendent, said.
The device, which cost $1,250, is worn like a probation or parole monitor, strapped to the ankle. It can be hidden under the pants leg where it can’t easily be seen by members of the jury, Boehm said.
Previously, inmates were brought into the courtroom wearing a leg brace that has a bar that goes between an inmate’s ankles.
With that device, Boehm said as long as inmates walk on the balls of their feet, they will walk fairly normally, albeit with a slight limp. But if an inmate suddenly attempted to run, it would more than likely cause that person to fall.
The taser device will allow inmates to walk freely, but still allow officers to maintain control.
The Stun Cuff is about twice the size of a traditional electronic monitor and can be strapped to an arm or a leg. It has a remote control that looks similar to an old-style cellphone with an antenna that can be programmed for up to nine different devices, although the Franklin County Jail has only purchased one so far.
Boehm said the Stun Cuff has a fail-safe device that will not allow it to activate accidentally, as when it is deployed, it sends 50,000 volts of electricity through the person wearing it.
“In some of the training videos I’ve seen, some (people) have fallen down, and others were hopping on one leg (as the current was going through them),” he said, “but it distracts them to the point where you can regain control.”
The device dispenses the charge for about five seconds when activated for the first time. If control is not gained in that time, it can be reactivated and will stay on until it is shut off.
“If a person creates an issue, we discharge it,” Boehm said. “Let’s say he falls down, but is still fighting. We can discharge it again.”
The device also has a memory storage that can be downloaded to a computer and will keep a record of when it was used and for how long, Boehm said.
Boehm said it is never known what an inmate will do during a stressful situation like a trial. He gave an example of an incident at a murder trial several years ago when the defendant lunged at the bench during the trial.
“As the last witness was testifying, he jumps up and says, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ and headed toward the bench,” he said. “The situation was taken care of before anyone got hurt, but if we had this device he wouldn’t have gotten as close. It would have slowed him sooner.”