Tulsa County begins using prisoner security device at courthouse

Friday, October 7th 2005, 2:14 pm
By: News On 6

A new, hi-tech device beefs up Tulsa County courthouse security. It's called the ‘band-it’ and it keeps inmates on their best behavior, because if they’re not, it shocks them with 50,000 volts for eight seconds.

After a ruckus at the Tulsa County courthouse Thursday, during which a judge pulled out a gun, the ‘band-it’ offers hidden protection.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright says when people are on trial, they can't be handcuffed in a jail jumpsuit in front of a jury. The idea is that if you're innocent until proven guilty, you should look that way, otherwise, the jury could be biased, but, that makes the job of security much tougher for deputies.

That's where the band-it comes in. It's a battery pack that's placed on the inmate's back, inner thigh or arm where the electrodes touch the skin. Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Captain Scott Vickers: "The deputy who's guarding that prisoner has a remote control with an on-off button and if they act up, he hits the button, it gives a beep warning, then hits him for about eight seconds."

The band-it can be worn under clothes and not be seen by a jury plus it gives deputies control without having to get into a physical struggle. Captain Scott Vickers: "Classic example. Inmate is at trial and decides to run for the door. The deputy hits the button and it locks him up." Both Wade and Chris Lay were wearing a band-it during their recent murder trial.

About 150 inmates are brought to court everyday in Tulsa, sometimes; the band-it's psychological deterrent is enough. For instance, the rape suspect who caused a ruckus in Judge Thornbrugh's courtroom where they judge actually got out his gun, that suspect is now wearing a band-it, so if he acts up again, he'll get zapped.

Deputies must guard people who are accused of very violent crimes and that threat doesn't disappear because they're in custody. Sometimes, its worse, when people feel trapped, so the band-it is another tool designed to keep courthouse employees, deputies and citizens safe.

Tulsa County currently has two band-its which are used on high risk inmates.

By the way, about Judge Thornbrugh having a gun in his office, the law says it's illegal to have a gun in a courthouse, even if you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which the judge does. If the case is pursued, the violation would be a misdemeanor.