U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., is asking the U.S. Office of Detention and Removal Operations to explain why it’s OK for jailers to use Tasers to control inmates who are U.S. citizens but not those who are in the country illegally.

Yesterday, the lawmaker – and GOP candidate for president – sent a letter to DRO Director John Torres expressing concerns over new regulations imposed on local jails that contract with his agency to detain illegal aliens prior to their trials and deportations. The new regulations ban contracting with local jails that fail to ban use of Tasers on illegals or supply them with a “pad,” rather than a “bed.”

The Taser, an electrical device that shocks its target with 50,000 volts, is commonly used as a non-lethal means of controlling inmates in jails across the U.S. The use of sleeping pads is common and legal in jails where they are often supplied because of overcrowding.

“I think most citizens would think it extremely bizarre for the federal government to say that Tasers must never be used on an illegal alien when their use is legal for citizens,” Tancredo said. “I hope that DRO will pull back from any effort to impose its ‘Taser rule’ on jails operated by local law enforcement.

“I also have other questions about the DRO detention standards imposed on local jail facilities,” Tancredo said in his letter. “Where in federal law or regulations is it mandated that illegal aliens held in custody must have an assigned ‘bed’ rather than a ‘pad’ when the use of pads is legal for U.S. citizens? Why is there a different standard for the accommodation of illegal aliens than for citizens?”

Tancredo, addressing the concerns of the Garfield County, Colo., sheriff, noted illegal aliens kept in the county jail are not segregated but are in the general population, making it impossible to restrict use of the device to a particular group of inmates.

Summit County Sheriff John Minor won’t be affected by the new DRO policy. He holds illegals charged with crimes in his jail while they await trial and turns them over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement when the county is ready to release them, but he won’t take federal money.

Minor told the Frisco, Colo., Summit Daily a contract with ICE would net the county about $162,000 a year based on a charge-back of $45 per day per inmate, but he won’t let Washington bureaucrats tell him how to do his job.

“I figure if it’s good enough for an American citizen to get Tased, it’s good enough for an illegal alien to get Tased if they get out of line,” Minor said.

Minor said his department has been using the Taser for three years and, most times, an officer’s threat to use it is sufficient to make an unruly inmate calm down.

“If we were an ICE contract facility, they would require me to tell my deputies they can’t have Tasers,” he said. “My response is, ‘Have a nice day, just don’t have it here.'”

Don Christensen, executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, said Minor’s position is a common one among the state’s sheriffs.

Previous DRO regulations have banned contracts with facilities that use dogs to control rioting inmates, Christensen said. Complying with all the rules would require segregation of suspected illegal aliens – an accommodation that makes federal money not worth the trouble for most sheriffs.

“These jails are not torture chambers. They protect the civil rights of people. It’s hypocrisy to have them dictated (to) from Washington. They won’t do it,” Christensen said.

Tancredo, in his letter, notes the shortage of detention space caused by DRO policies is resulting in illegal aliens being released due a lack of room.

“Has DRO abandoned any agreement with a local jail facility because of the use of Tasers?” he wrote. “If so, what is the number of detention beds lost by those decisions? Where is this policy dictated or authorized by federal law? Has this policy regarding Tasers been reviewed and approved by Secretary Chertoff?”

Tancredo also questioned Torres on DRO’s policy on lower-cost “tent cities” for detaining illegals.

“Is there anything in the DRO Detention Standards that would prohibit this approach? Are there any statutory barriers?” he asked.

“I hope that the DRO will reconsider forcing unworkable mandates on the law enforcement people who are trying to detain illegal aliens. Law enforcement needs more tools, not more restrictions, in the fight against illegal immigration,” said Tancredo.

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