A state prison inmate who was pepper-sprayed while confined in a restraint chair and then left to suffer for more than 20 minutes has filed suit against the corrections captain who sprayed him.
Paul Schlosser III, who is serving a seven-year sentence for robbery at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, filed suit this week against Capt. Shawn Welch, who was suspended for 30 days after the June 2012 incident.
Schlosser’s mother, Laura Schlosser, said her son was suing the individual officer, not the state agency, because a state law bars lawsuits against the prison if inmates do not file a complaint within a certain period of time.
Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick said he was unaware that a lawsuit had been filed, a spokesman said.
Schlosser’s case drew widespread attention because of a video of the incident made by the prison, which was made available to the Portland Press Herald and posted on the newspaper’s website, pressherald.com.
Schlosser’s attorney, C. Donald Briggs III, filed a notice of claim in December alerting the state that a lawsuit was likely. Briggs said at the time that Welch’s behavior was outrageous and unjustified.
A Maine Sunday Telegram report in March described Welch’s use of pepper spray on the restrained Schlosser.
The incident began when Schlosser re-injured an arm wound for which he had been previously hospitalized. He said he was hurting himself because he was upset about the breakup of his marriage and because he was being segregated from other inmates.
Schlosser spit at the face of an officer after being restrained, and Schlosser was hit in the face with a high-powered stream of pepper spray. He was not allowed to wash his face for 24 minutes afterward.
After the story appeared, the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee held a hearing on the use of force in state prisons. Legislators called for creating an internal affairs unit to investigate allegations of misconduct by corrections employees, and the Corrections department created one.
The department’s new internal affairs investigators were added to the four Corrections investigators that examine criminal conduct at the two main prisons and two youth detention facilities.
New department policies designed to improve officers’ handling of people who injure themselves, as well as those who spit at officers, were also created.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: