Video from US prison shows inmate held down, pepper sprayed at close range

Video from US prison shows inmate held down, pepper sprayed at close range
In what promises to be a major public relations headache for Maine's Department of Corrections, local media have released raw footage of a restrained inmate being subdued with pepper spray and then left unattended for over twenty minutes.

The story and video first appeared in this week’s Maine Sunday Telegram, and were further reported on by the Portland Press Herald, with a shorter clip accompanied by some two hours of additional video. The raw footage depicts Windham Correctional Center inmate Paul Schlosser being bound to a restraint chair, flanked by five prison officials - three of them in riot gear - protesting that guards “watch his arm,” and subsequently being pepper sprayed in the face at close range by Captain Shawn Welch.

It is unclear how footage of the June 2012 event found its way into the hands of Maine’s media, though the state’s Department of Corrections has already assigned an investigator to locate the source of the leak.

Schlosser was reported to have received treatment for a self-inflicted wound to his arm and was on multiple medications for bipolar disorder and depression prior to the incident.

Captain Welch was initially fired over his actions by Scott Burnheimer, superintendent of the medium-minimum security facility - a decision that was overturned by Maine’s corrections commissioner, who reduced the penalty to a 30-day suspension.

Meanwhile, Judy Garvey, a spokesperson for the state’s Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, criticized the department’s focus on the source of the leak instead of concentrating its resources on preventing similar incidents from occurring in the future. "Trying to find out how the information got into the hands of a reporter shows a reluctance to have transparency. It reeks of government heavy-handedness in oversight,” she told the Press Herald.

Garvey further recommended that the Department of Corrections look to create an advocacy group for prisoners’ treatment.