Heat Ray device for Jails?

Carolee - posted on 08/28/2010 ( 35 moms have responded )

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LOS ANGELES – A device designed to control unruly inmates by blasting them with a beam of intense energy that causes a burning sensation is drawing heat from civil rights groups who fear it could cause serious injury and is "tantamount to torture."

The mechanism, known as an "Assault Intervention Device," is a stripped-down version of a military gadget that sends highly focused beams of energy at people and makes them feel as though they are burning. The Los Angeles County sheriff's department plans to install the device by Labor Day, making it the first time in the world the technology has been deployed in such a capacity.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California criticized Sheriff Lee Baca's decision in a letter sent Thursday, saying that the technology amounts to a ray gun at a county jail. The 4-feet-tall weapon, which looks like a cross between a robot and a satellite radar, will be mounted on the ceiling and can swivel.

It is remotely controlled by an operator in a separate room who lines up targets with a joystick.

The ACLU said the weapon was "tantamount to torture," noting that early military versions resulted in five airmen suffering lasting burns. It requested a meeting with Baca, who declined the invitation.

The sheriff unveiled the device last week and said it would be installed in the dorm of a jail in north Los Angeles County. It is far less powerful than the military version and has various safeguards in place, including a three-second limit to each beam of heat.

The natural response when blasted — to leap out the way — would be helpful in bringing difficult inmates under control and quelling riots, the sheriff said.

But the sheriff was creating a dangerous environment with "a weapon that can cause serious injury that is being put into a place where there is a long history of abuse of prisoners," ACLU attorney Peter Eliasberg said. "That is a toxic combination."

Cmdr. Bob Osborne, who oversees technology for the sheriff's department, said the concerns were unfounded. He said he stood in front of the beam more than 50 times and that it never caused any sort of lasting damage.

"The neat thing with this device is you experience pain but you are not injured by it," Osborne said. "It doesn't injure your skin, the beam doesn't have the power to do that."

He said the device would be a more humane way of dealing with jail disturbances. Unlike hitting inmates with batons or deploying tear gas, a shot from the beam has no aftereffects, he said.

The device was made specifically for the sheriff's department by Raytheon Missile Systems. Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said its $750,000 cost was paid for by a Department of Justice technology grant.

After a six-month trial, the sheriff will determine if the device is effective and if it should be deployed in other jails.

"When this pilot program is done, the realistic hope is it will accomplish not only what the sheriff's department wants but what the ACLU wants, which is to save lives harmlessly," Whitmore said.

A Raytheon spokesman on Thursday referred questions to the sheriff's department, but provided a fact sheet describing how the device only penetrates skin to a depth 1/64 of an inch. The military's version of the device can shoot a beam more than 800 feet but the sheriff's department model has a maximum range of 85 feet.

Angelica Arias, an attorney with the county's Office of Independent Review, which monitors the sheriff's department, said only deputies with special training would be able to use the device and a video would be automatically recorded each time it is operated.

"Based on the level of scrutiny the department has put on itself and its training, it doesn't appear there would be too much wiggle room for misuse," Arias said.
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What are your opinions on this?

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Amie - posted on 08/29/2010

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I was going to stay out of this but this Katherine...

"Which IMO, you've already gained notoriaty for attacking people"

...is really bothering me.

Heather is new here and to CoM's. She's hardly had time to gain any real notoriety for herself on these boards. I think your own personal views and how you are reading her posts are being jaded by the conflicting opinions from the epi thread.

I also don't see Heather acting like a know it all. I do see her retaliating. That might just be how I'm reading it though, it's all in the perspective.

[deleted account]

I have some problems with this.
It could easily be abused. Who gets the final say as to when prisoners are "unruly" enough to have this device used on them? I assume there will be standards and guidelines, but someone has to make the final decision.

Another point: someone (sorry, I forget who!) mentioned the Californian jails in particular as being overcrowded and understaffed. Why not provide more staff? And why are the jails overcrowded?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but perhaps some reform of the criminal justice system would be in order rather than searching for more and more methods of control, which seem, to my outsider's eyes, to be getting more and more violent.

Christina - posted on 08/29/2010

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Ok, so it's a burning sensation....according to the article that is written for the express purpose of inciting outrage against what some may consider inhumane treatment. It's a perceptual interpretation determined by anyone who has the treatment based on past experiences. Umm, I feel a burning sensation at the beach when I get a sunburn. Sting, burning sensations, it's about what a person can tolerate.

However, opponents of this particular issue normally state that prison food, tolietries, lack of certain reading material, and having roommates in prison is "inhumane treatment." Prison is a form of punishment nowadays, not rehabilitation.

Although I am not attempting to draw an analogy between prison food and heat rays, I am stating that prison control is the responsibility of those who are running the prisons. If people have an issue with it, go and step in their shoes for a day. Go and have excrement thrown at you for a day or two by prisoners. Perhaps it's really the prison guards who are subjected to inhumane treatment.

Ez - posted on 08/29/2010

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Ok I'm just going to ask everyone to remember our guidelines and refrain from personal attacks. There is really no need for the hostility. If you have disagreed with someone in another thread, please leave it and move on!



Back to the topic, I actually don't see how this is any different than the various other methods used. How is this any worse than a taser?

[deleted account]

I'm very much on the fence. I don't like the thought of extreme physical pain to control someone. At the same time, I'd use pepper spray in a heartbeat if being attacked. Personally, I like the idea of rehabilitation more than punishment. Though, in the midst of a riot, rehabilitation won't do much. If it's two inmates fighting each other, let them have it out and worry about punishment later. But if the lives of other inmates or guards or volunteers (my dad) or clinic nurses (my husband) are in danger, then something like this would be the lesser evil. And as long as my dad has been volunteering (16 years) and my husband has been working (2 years) there's only been one-on-one fights, no uncontrolled riots. I don't think this would be appropriate in that instance.

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[deleted account]

im sorry but i agree with it.. if it deters a violent, potentially fatal riot.. then go for it.. prisons r somewhat of a joke to me anyways.. they get more access to stuff than the ave joe or josephine who is trying to raise and support their families legitamitly.. give me a break.. usually when ur sentenced to a prison term its a good reason

Dana - posted on 08/29/2010

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Doesn't this remind anyone of some crazy sci-fy movie, where it's way into the future, the world has gone to shit and the world police has taken over. lol Can't get too close to the prisoners....gotta shot 'em with a beam from the ceiling.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that it's crazy in prisons, we all know that BUT, I still think it's wrong to have a laser mounted on a ceiling that can shoot anyone with a beam and make them feel like their flesh is burning as a way to control a crowd.

Rosie - posted on 08/29/2010

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i don't have a problem with it, we electrocute people with tasers for christs sake. it's along the same lines.

[deleted account]

Can I borrow that thing?

That's really all I have to 'add' to this debate. I'm not into people being caused pain, but I'm also not into violence of any type and I have no experience w/ prisons or prisoners to say what the 'lesser of 2 evils' would be in this situation.

Katherine - posted on 08/29/2010

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Wait, I don't understand what you mean by that, Christina. They said it feels like you're being burned.



"A device designed to control unruly inmates by blasting them with a beam of intense energy that causes a burning sensation is drawing heat from civil rights groups who fear it could cause serious injury and is "tantamount to torture."

That's what they said anyways.

Christina - posted on 08/29/2010

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Well, unless you feel the pain you wouldn't know if it was a burn or a sting. The ACLU isn't a neutral voice when it comes to dealing with prison conditions. If the organization had their way, all prisoners would be living in half-way houses with tracking devices around their ankles. Not everyone can be controlled by a voice saying, "Hey sit down and be quiet, don't hit or kill your fellow prisoner with that makeshift shiv!!!"

Dana - posted on 08/29/2010

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You mean getting burned, or the feeling of being burned, not stung. Big difference between the two.

Christina - posted on 08/29/2010

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I think it's hard to imagine what it would be like to be shot with a hot laser beam until it's shot at you. But, we may have all seen prison life dramatized or on a reality television show.

My father was a police officer, I have a few cousins who are state prison guards, and my husband was a MP. Prisoners who have nothing to lose, eg. are in jail for life or know that they are about to go to jail are really violent. Prison guards have a really tough time controlling them and going into a riot could result in an injured or dead guard.

Therefore, it's my opinion that although people may see this as an inhumane tactic, there has to be a balance between prisoner control and keeping the public/guards safe. If it means that prisoners get a little stung in the process, then so be it.

Prisoners kill each other all of the time using knives, bats, etc. Guards have to use batons. Getting stung with a beam seems harmless compared to the other violence in daily prison life.

Katherine - posted on 08/29/2010

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Anyways.......I think it's one more device to use. They didn't say in leiu of the others. They probably will still use the other methods.

Heather - posted on 08/29/2010

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Nope, never been in a riot of any kind, thank God. I have seen them. Especially on the reality TV shows like "Locked Up"(I think that's the name) It's pretty guesome. I'm not an expert, don't know much beyond having watched them(even some in the prison that's being mentioned in the article).

Dana: It sounded a little like you were jumping on me, but I was just going to ignore it. Good to know that wasn't your intent. :)

Dana - posted on 08/29/2010

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Jesus, Amie, I hardly think me asking Heather if she's been in a prison riot is "jumping on her".

Dana - posted on 08/29/2010

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I fully agree, Krista. One of the first things that I thought of was the use of tasers and how "safe" they are. The whole thing kind of brings to mind cattle prongs in the slaughter house. :|

Krista - posted on 08/29/2010

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My major concern with this is that they SAY it's safe...but they said that tasers are safe too, and people HAVE died from those. And with tasers, they also say that people have to be well-trained before using them, etc. But we've seen in the media many cases where tasers have been misused. Maybe I just have a distrust of authority, but I can predict this being misused and some bad-apple guards having fun taking potshots at the prisoners with these things.

Jessica - posted on 08/29/2010

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If it can stop violence in prison whilst having no long term damage on the inmates then I am all for it.

Amie - posted on 08/28/2010

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I don't see a real issue with this. I went searching for more background. Found more then I wanted to. California's jails as a whole are seriously lacking. They're over crowded and understaffed. They rank the worst in the country. The staff can not even intervene until proper back up as arrived, so those two men fighting could turn into a riot if the guards are not quick enough. Seems to happen a lot too.



If guards can break up the fighting before it becomes a riot, before people get hurt or die, then I have no issue with it.



It says it leaves no lasting effects, it's been tested on 14,000 people. If it does have a camera attached (as the article says) that records each time it's used, again, I have no issue with it.



http://sheriff.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/l...!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gLAwgwcjfzdDPw9Hf3dAswNjcyCDLRDwfpwK3CyRwib4ADOBro-3nk56bqF2Rnpzk6KioCAMV4niQ!/dl3/d3/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS9ZQnZ3LzZfOTAwMEdPQlMyRzZNOTBJQ1Q2S1Y0UDFPMzA!/?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/wps/wcm/connect/lasd+content/lasd+site/home/home+top+stories/aid+unvealed

(Excuse the long link this is where I got the 14,000 number from)



It might not be completely humane but it is more humane than beating someone with a baton (head injury anyone? broken bones?), spraying some with pepper spray (temporary blindness and pain), shooting tear gas into the general areas (which hit the inmates who may or may not have anything to do with what was going on), tasering someone (thousands of volts running through a body) and barriers only protect the guards, the remaining inmates are still locked in with the rioting ones. Or does that not matter? (Honest question, not looking for smart remarks)

At least with this device the inmate is in full control to move away to stop the pain. It is also set to 3 second bursts correct?



Just for clarity too (since I see people jumping on Heather) I have not been in the midst of any kind of riot. I also have the common sense to LEAVE if I was ever caught in one.



When people stay and force is needed to get them to calm down, that's on them.

Dana - posted on 08/28/2010

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Heather are you saying you've been in the midst of a prison riot now...or any riot for that matter?

I've got to agree with Katherine on one point, you do seem to come into a debate thinking you know it all and no one else knows squat...just saying. :|

Heather - posted on 08/28/2010

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I asked you in all seriousness if you had a better suggestion since you offered nothing in your first posts. It wasn't sarcasm and I haven't attacked anyone. This IS a debate and I'm supposed to offer examples to back up my opinion which is what I'm doing. How is that being a know-it-all?

"I assume that's your "military" background spewing crap again". That's a pretty personal statement considering I was asking pertinent questions that involved the topic being discussed. I haven't attacked anyone, and certainly not you, but I have backed up my statements and defended myself against other people who had no problem making something personal. Maybe you need to be a little more tactful too?

Katherine - posted on 08/28/2010

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I don't appreciate your know-it-all attitude. I'm assuming you've seen all of those things because you are in the military. I am not personally attacking you , you asked:Do you have a better suggestion for crowd/prisoner control? Which IMO, you've already gained notoriaty for attacking people, and I took it as sarcasm.

I am sticking to the subject I just answered your question.

If you want to debate you are going to have to be a bit more tactful.

Heather - posted on 08/28/2010

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Actually Katherine that's my common sense spewing "crap" as you call it. Have you ever been in or seen a prison riot? Have you ever seen a mob of rioting people overrun the police and innocent people? The barriers, stanchions, and "entertainment" didn't work, and the gas can be fatal if you have asthma or some other kind of respiratory disease. Until you have a non-violent prison riot(not likely) there's going to be escalation of force.

P.S. I don't really appreciate your reference to my "military" background being crap. I don't know you or where you come from, but I'd appreciate you sticking to the subject and refraining from personal attacks on me. If you don't respect the military the least you can do is ignore it.

Katherine - posted on 08/28/2010

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I assume that's your "military" background spewing crap again.

There are barriers, gas, stanchions, entertainment(crowd control) and a myriad of other options.

Heather - posted on 08/28/2010

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would you rather have anarchy in the prisons or prison guards killed because there's no control? These prisoners are in jail for a reason and the violent offenders are the ones causing riots.
It actually feels like you touched a curling iron or hot stove. The idea is to make the prisoners move out of the way of the ray and stop fighting. Do you have a better suggestion for crowd/prisoner control?

Katherine - posted on 08/28/2010

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I'd imagine the feeling is similar to being cooked in a microwave. I don't think there are degrees of humanity in this instance. All of it is inhumane. Yet they will continue to develop more devices to "control" prisoners and crowds, no matter the consequences.

Heather - posted on 08/28/2010

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actually, it's a lot more humane than beating a prisoner into submission or shooting them. There aren't any lasting affects...it only makes you feel like you're burning. Even pepper spray and tear gas can do serious damage, so this may be a better form of crowd control.

Heather - posted on 08/28/2010

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They were testing this out here at Ft. Irwin about a year and a half ago...interesting...

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