Progressive Graffiti

Restrained Schizophrenic Prisoner Tazed to Death

Cruel. Tragic. Another police-custody death.

Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks, describes how a schizophrenic prisoner in Virginia was shackled and tasered four times – which killed her.

The Washington Post explains:

[Experts say that] tasers are not recommended for use on the mentally ill, that even the Taser manufacturer warns against using them on people in a state of ‘excited delirium,’ and that using a stun gun more than three times is thought to be above the threshold for use on a single person.

Is it significant that this prisoner was black? That she was a woman? I don’t know. But it is clearly significant that the prisoner was in a state of excited delirium.

Better Training for Police Officers

Police officers must be trained to recognize aberrant mental states. They must learn how to effectively deal with people who are mentally ill. They also need to know techniques to keep themselves from becoming overly excited and reactionary.

A mentally ill prisoner was killed. That’s the worst of it. But there are also six police officers who are now tormented with regret and shame – because they were not well enough prepared to keep their wits about them while under pressure.

About the author

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn Chateau likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She sometimes writes fiction about Chester (the Alpha Bichon) and his friends -- with a dash of humor and dab of Poli-Sci. JoAnn's views and insights are tinted by her past profession in Counseling, Christian theological studies, and Library and Information Science training. Retired now, JoAnn enjoys the creative life.


  • This is tragic, and unfortunately not the first time people’s lack of understanding about mental illness has caused harm. It baffles me that in a time where people are getting more and more access to health care people still remain incredible ignorant about mental health care. It is so important for police officers to be some of the best trained among us and to understand everything from subconscious racial biases to triggers in mental illness, or at least to really push forward with more cooperative work between police officers and mental health reps like counselors or social workers.

    I really wonder when enough will be enough and we’ll start seeing more changes in the justice system take place.

    • I expect austerity measures have greatly impacted our justice system. Reduced funds translate into inadequate police training and fewer mental health services.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Laura.

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