Aug 30 2010

LA County Sheriff Embraces New ‘Pain Ray’ Weapon Rejected by the Military

Feature Stories | Published 30 Aug 2010, 9:37 am | Comments Off on LA County Sheriff Embraces New ‘Pain Ray’ Weapon Rejected by the Military -

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pain rayAn experimental crowd control weapon originally designed for military use in Afghanistan and Iraq is now slated for domestic use. The weapon is known by various names including the “Assault Intervention Device,” the “Active Denial System,” “the Silent Guardian,” and unofficially, the “Pain Ray.” The device uses concentrated beams of electromagnetic radiation to produce pain and burning sensations in its targets. Although the device is “non-lethal” and does not produce permanent injury, a miscalibration of power settings during Air Force testing caused five airmen to suffer lasting burns, including one whose injuries were severe enough to warrant an airlift to an off-base burn treatment center. The system was deployed to Afghanistan briefly this summer, but was removed from service without being used operationally. The defense contractor Raytheon Missile Systems has developed a scaled down version of the heat ray device specifically for LA County’s sheriff’s department, which plans to install it in Los Angeles County jails before Labor Day. Working with the Department of Justice, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department will have a six month trial of the device at Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, California before deciding to install it in other jails. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Southern California, are concerned that the device could cause permanent injury and that its use is ‘tantamount to torture.’’ They sent a letter criticizing the decision to Sheriff Lee Baca last Thursday. The ACLU has extensively documented L.A. County Jail’s history of overcrowding, deputy violence, retaliation and abuse against inmates and prisoner-on-prisoner assaults. It is the largest and most expensive jail system in the nation. More than half of those housed have yet to be convicted and are awaiting trial.

Proponents of the heat ray device say it will reduce violence in prisons and better enable jail staff to subdue unruly inmates, but ACLU Attorney Peter Eliasberg has said that the sheriff is 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…That is a toxic combination.”

GUEST: Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the National ACLU Prison Project in Washington DC

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