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article image'Pain beam' device soon to be used on inmates in LA County jail

By Laura Trowbridge     Aug 31, 2010 in Technology
Castaic - Guards at the Los Angeles County jail complex in Castaic, California will be using a new nonlethal but painfully hot weapon to control the inmates.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbclosangeles.com/video.

The "Assault Intervention Device" will be used, when necessary, at Pitchess Detention Center where 3,700 inmates are housed. The 7and-a-half-foot-tall machine will be installed in a dormitory where 65 inmates are located.
"The device is controlled by a joystick and computer monitor and emits a beam about the size of a CD up to distances of about 80 to 100 feet. The wave travels at the speed of light and penetrates the skin up to 1/64 of an inch."
The weapon's technology was developed in secret by the military, according to AOL News, and aims a focused, invisible millimeter wave of unbearable heat at a suspect. The pain stops as soon as the targeted subject moves away from the path of the beam's focus.
The device, developed by Raytheon, is being evaluated for a six-month period by the National Institute of Justice for possible use in jails nationwide.
This is a "smaller version of a technology originally developed by the military for use on the battlefield. The military's weapon, called the Active Denial System, can be put on a Humvee or truck, and researchers are also working on a aircraft-mounted version."
The smaller version creates pain on just a single part of the body, whereas the military version sends an all-encompassing heat sensation on the target's whole torso.
The military has spent years and tens of millions of dollars in developing the nonlethal technology, but has not yet used it because they mostly fear "a public relations backlash against using a 'microwave weapon'."
"Ironically, a former Air Force secretary even suggested that the weapon should first be used in the United States before being deployed abroad."
When the Pentagon sent a truck-mounted version of the Active Denial System to Afghanistan to test it out this year, it came back to the US without being used.
The smaller version to be used at the jail in California was given to the Sheriff's Department at no cost. A Raytheon spokeswoman would not say how much the machine would cost to purchase, "but one deputy estimated just the hardware costs at least hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Commander Bob Osborne of the Sheriff's Department Technology Exploration Program told the Daily News Los Angeles: "We hope that this type of technology will either cause an inmate to stop an assault or lessen the severity of an assault by them being distracted by the pain as a result of the beam, so that we have fewer injuries, fewer assaults, those kinds of things."
The non-lethal weapon was tested by the deputies on themselves and it was said that the beam is painful, and even worse when it catches a person unawares.
Osborne said: "I equate it to opening an oven door and feeling that blast of hot air, except instead of being all over me, it's more focused."
When a fight breaks out amongst inmates, deputies have to take the time to get a team together before going in to break up the fight, which can quickly turn deadly.
It was reported that "257 inmate-on-inmate assaults have occurred in the first half of this year, with 19 incidents where inmates attacked deputies [at Pitchess]."
Sheriff Lee Baca stated: "This device will allow us to quickly intervene without having to enter the area and without incapacitating or injuring either combatant."
"If you got in the way, you'll know," said Mike Booen, vice president of advance security at Raytheon. "You feel the effect in less than a second. No one can stand there for more than about three seconds because it really hurts."
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