August 24th, 2010
10:33 AM ET

L.A. jail tests 'intolerable heat' beam on brawling inmates

An L.A. county jail will be testing the Assault Intervention Device.

Officials at a Los Angeles County jail plan to test out an invisible heat-beam weapon originally developed by the military as a way to subdue brawling inmates by making them feel "intolerable heat."

The technology, called an Assault Intervention Device, is a non lethal-weapon developed by Raytheon Company. It originally was scaled down for use at the jail.

The device "emits a focused beam of wave energy that travels at the speed of light and produces an intolerable heating sensation that causes targeted individuals to flee. The sensation immediately ceases when the targeted individual moves away from the beam," according to Raytheon's website.

Deputies have tested the device, which is controlled by a jail officer using a joystick.

"We believe that technology can help solve problems facing the corrections community, including addressing issues of inmate violence," Sheriff Lee Baca said during a news conference. "The Assault Intervention Device appears uniquely suited to address some of the more difficult inmate violence issues without the drawbacks of tools currently available to us."

"This device will allow us to quickly intervene without having to enter the area and without incapacitating or injuring either combatant," Baca added.

Officials say they hope the device can help quell inmate assaults and reduce prison violence. Its use will be monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice and Pennsylvania State University.

The device was installed and is being tested at Pitchess Detention Center at the L.A. County jail in Castaic, California.

That jail was the site of a 200-inmate brawl this weekend in which inmates threw rocks and debris at officers, who were attempting to stop them from entering a restricted area, according to CNN affiliate KTLA.

KTLA reported the brawl lasted for an hour before tear gas and non-lethal weapons were used. CNN is awaiting comment on whether the new Assault Intervention Device was employed during the brawl.

soundoff (307 Responses)
  1. PHIL


    August 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. PHIL

    JESSICA- you know very little about how prisons work. Either way, someone is getting hurt, it's a fight afterall. If the correction officers use brute force they will risk hurting themselves too. It's common sense really.

    August 27, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dawn

    Does it go 'Pew! pew! pew!'?
    If not, it should.

    August 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |

      I don't care who you are...that's funny! ROFL!

      August 27, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • NO.


      August 29, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. leebest

    Set Phasers to STUN !

    August 27, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kneeneye

    They have had this technology around for a long time, it is called a Microwave (on a bigger scale). Fry those low lifes. Furthermore, once out of the beam they do not feel heat. What is to stop them from escaping the beam and resuming beating one another? I say shoot them if they act up. Otherwise why do tower guards have rifles?

    August 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mikey

    How about we line them up on the Mexican border and let the illegals feel the heat?

    August 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jim X

    A high pressure firehouse wasn't high tech or expensive enough?

    August 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dan

    A prisoner will lose an eye because of one of these things and will make millions suing the state.

    August 27, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. eric

    "Non lethal" according to them. The police are not satisfied with tasing children and old ladies.
    They want a new way to accidently kill people by irradiating them with microwaves. The movie Blue Thunder seemed ridiculous in the 80's when they said military weapons would be used for mere civilian crowd control. Enjoy your police state. Today criminals, tomorrow your children.

    August 27, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. judge dredd

    Hope they issue Xray badges like those in my hospital to the guards and inmates...... once your badge is saturated you get a free pass. Cops should be wearing badges too with all the microwaves bouncing off the microcrystalline quartz reflections in glass.......... risky, you bet.

    August 27, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. X

    Think about this. If this device can cause excruciating pain when turned on for a few seconds, it won't be long before somebody cranks up the power and presto, instant dead roasted humans. Mark my words, it will happen.

    August 27, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jahn

    They call it an "intolerable heat beam", I call it a high-end ultraviolet light. They claim it to be harmless; however science begs to differ. Thing is, if your body feels a burning sensation it's because the chemicals that make it up are deteriorating. You wouldn't feel anything at all if it was "harmless."

    "Being very energetic, UV can break chemical bonds, making molecules unusually reactive or ionizing them (see photoelectric effect), in general changing their mutual behavior. Sunburn, for example, is caused by the disruptive effects of UV radiation on skin cells, which is the main cause of skin cancer, if the radiation irreparably damages the complex DNA molecules in the cells (UV radiation is a proven mutagen). " - Wikipedia : Electromagnetic Spectrum

    I don't think allowing police to use something many people regard as "harmless," is a very good idea. Especially when we already have cops with a tendency to overuse other "harmless" weapons such as mace, and tasers. Let's also not forget about the mentally-handicapped officers who can't tell the difference between a candy-bar and a gun when it's in the hands of a black man.

    August 27, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Robert C

    I was briefly held at a local jail a few years back on unpaid traffic fines. While there I witnessed the "corrections officers" verbally and physically assault several people the the holding areas. One inmate was sprayed point blank with pepperspray for no apparent reason, and another was thrown to the ground and kicked for not spitting out his gum... after that instance I lost all respect for most law enforcement. Point being, I would expect this and similar devices to be used excessively just as tasers and pepperspray have been, so its just a matter of time before they start pointing it at inmates who are locked in their cells with no way to avoid being cooked alive by the device.

    August 28, 2010 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  14. mattski

    CNN's headline is misleading. They're not testing the machine on inmates. They're using the machine on inmates. From what I saw, they tend to test it on each other. I got no problem with either.

    August 28, 2010 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. DS

    I'd prefer that violent prisoners be forcibly restrained (if fighting) or shot (if attempting to kill or do serious bodily injury); there's more accountability and evidence for both the guard and the prisoner that way. The use of force ought to be a departure from the normal and routine, a dramatic escalation.

    Make no mistake: today this weapon is used in a jail, but it's ultimate application will be used for the suppression of First Amendment-protected dissent, i.e. use against law-abiding protesters, not prisoners, just like the Long Range Acoustic Device – a military sonic weapons system – was used against lawful protesters at the G20 conference in Philadelphia.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
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