An “invisible heat-beam weapon” developed by Raytheon Co. for the military is being called “tantamount to torture” by the ACLU as the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department prepares to install a scaled-down version in a jail dormitory next month to curb inmate assaults, reports the Boston Herald. In a letter to Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy D. Baca, the ACLU of Southern California called the Assault Intervention Device–which focuses a softball-sized beam that makes inmates feel “intolerable heat”–a violation of the Eighth Amendment's protection against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
But Commander Bob Osborne of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said the ACLU needs to weigh the new device against the jail's current methods of intervening in inmate assaults such as using batons, Tasers, pepper spray, tear gas or firing rubber bullets. The new device, which cost $750,000, penetrates only 1/64th of an inch into the skin, causing “controllable pain” but no injury, according to Raytheon. As soon as the heat beam is switched off, the pain stops, they say, leaving no lasting burns or physical damage. The test device's range is 85 feet, compared to 800 feet for the truck-mounted Active Denial System developed for the military.