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Inmate shocked with Taser after he put feces on a food tray

An inmate at the Screven County jail refused to come out of his cell and clean up feces and urine he had spread on a food tray, that is, until he was shocked with a Taser.

Cpl. James Lariscy said in an incident report that he found the befouled food tray outside the isolation cell occupied by Michael Chism, 21, on July 20. Lariscy said he got the Taser, returned to the cell, opened the door and told Chism to come out and clean up the mess.

“I repeated the order to come out and clean it up three times,” Lariscy said in the report. “After the third time and he failed to respond I fired the Taser. One Taser probe hit Chism in the left arm and the other hit him in the left buttock. After the initial discharge Chism complied.”

Since University of Florida student Andrew Meyer uttered the infamous, “Don’t tase me bro,” during a John Kerry forum in September 2007, the use of Tasers has drawn ever-growing attention. Amnesty International has raised questions about Taser use being an instantaneous death sentence in hundreds of cases. And in Texas in June, a 72-year-old granny who was Tasered during a traffic stop made headlines worldwide.

In Screven County, Sheriff Mike Kile said officers use Tasers as little as possible. Cpl. Brett Dickerson, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, estimated that officers on the road and in the jail use Tasers a total of about once each six weeks. “It’s rare,” Kile said. “We want to keep it that way.”

Dickerson said Chism was belligerent and refused to exit the cell. He said the mess was a safety and health hazard and with the urine making the tile at the entrance to the cell wet, jailers could not safely remove Chism from the cell without using the Taser.

“Is it safer to use a Taser to secure an individual like that or should an officer put himself in the position of fighting with an inmate inside a small cell when the floor is wet with urine, exposing himself to injury through fighting, exposing himself to any potential disease,” Dickerson said.

He said Chism wasn’t Tasered just because he wouldn’t clean up the mess. He was Tasered because he was standing on the bunk bed and wouldn’t come out of the cell.

“We never use force as punishment,” Dickerson said. “It’s not right. It’s not legal. We use force to control situations, to control people. We only use force to keep people safe, to effect arrests. Part of law enforcement is ‘force.’ Not everyone will comply with the law but everyone has to.”

Dickerson said the county has a policy on use of Tasers. “You have to have … action that could result in officer injury,” he said.

Dickerson said he doesn’t know why Chism was in isolation in the first place. He said in addition to time in isolation, inmates can be punished by withholding such things as reading material, radio, phone calls, visitation and the ability to purchase snacks.

Chism was being held in the Screven County jail on behalf of Effingham County, Dickerson said. The Screven County jail frequently houses inmates from neighboring jurisdictions that have overcrowded jails.

Chism was arrested in Effingham County on June 3 for interference of an electronic monitoring device, said Effingham County Detective David C. Ehsanipoor.

Chism also was arrested in Effingham County on April 7 on charges of conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine and unlawful possession of pseudo ephedrine. And he was arrested in Effingham County in July 2008 for obstruction, unlawful sale and possession of pseudo ephedrine, conspiracy to commit a crime and burglary, Ehsanipoor said.