Looking At the Odds

Abby Zimet

A Maine prison guard fired for up-close pepper-spraying an inmate already tied down in a restraining chair - an incident that even the guard admitted to investigators "looks horrific" on video  - is still working at the prison after he successfully appealed his firing. Capt. Shawn Welch was merely suspended from Maine Correctional Center for 30 days after his termination was overruled by Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte, who argued that Welch's "substantial amount of years of good, sound decision-making and performance" outweighed "one bad decision - it's kind of, you look at the odds." The inmate, Paul Schlosser III, was removed from his cell after he'd pulled the dressing off a self-inflicted wound over depression and frustration at his conditions. Schlosser, who is serving seven years for robbery and has hepatitis C, was placed in a restraining chair, where he struggled and spit at officers, at which point Welch sprayed him in the face from inches away. Then a spit mask was put over Schlosser's face, trapping the spray. Video of the incident. Warning: Yes, horrific. A review has been launched in the case. Meanwhile, God knows how much more goes on behind those prison doors.

"The use of force is to get control of the situation and keep everybody safe. It's not a form of punishment, which leads to torture."

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