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. Steve

    Amorican ingenuity! Doing what we do best weapons and war! How long until this is a mobile weapon used to break up your favorite protest? We get what we deserve.

    August 24, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. kado

    I love the way everyone is saying this is a safe machine. Says who? The guy who was hit with one in the military?
    Like the poor guys on whom LSD was secretly dested in the Army? Like the poor guys who were near ground zero
    in the Nevada nuclear bomb tests? That kind of "safe"? I'm not particularly worried about brawling inmates.... Just saying the naiivte here is a bit much.

    August 24, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. christof

    We the law abiding citizens are paying for this??? Only in America would you see money spent catering to the comforts of criminals instead of spending it on more guards who could just beat them into submission if they don't serve their time peacefully. Mean guards and fighting is what jail is for, soon criminals wont fear prison as much ( which is a bad thing ).

    August 24, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mark in the Heartland

    Does it come with a popcorn setting?

    August 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Adam

    I am very interested to know if it make you "Feel" hot....or is it actually making you hot. Like an actual increase in temperature.

    August 24, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gr8tScot121GW

      Both. It heats the outer layer of your skin just deep enough to make you feel like you're getting burned. In reality, it cannot penetrate past your skin because the wavelength is so small.

      August 24, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Seth

    This isn't about stopping inmate fights. its about using a military weapon that no one would volunteer to test.

    August 24, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andrew Messenger

    This contraption sounds to me like a new age microwave (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.) What if they spontaneously combust from the inside out? To me personally, this contraption sounds like it qualifies as "cruel and unusual punishment".

    Don't get me wrong, convicts who cause riots need to be squelched before they do too much damage. Just doesn't sound reasonable. I know I don't want to be microwaved by anyone for any reason whatsoever.

    August 24, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    The less lethal a weapon is, the more temptation there will be for the guards to abuse it, but I guess the CIA is already ten steps ahead of them.

    August 24, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Randy

    As is not unusual , CNN makes another editorial blunder. Just mindless pretty faces that are totally unwatchable on the tube and mistakes that abound in print. The article should include much more information about the inner workings of this machine.

    August 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. flossmore

    Last and final comment on the subject.........Who cares!

    August 24, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DudeWheresMyAmerica

    By christmas of next year this tech will be used as personal heaters in for you home

    August 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Marlin

    Am I the only one that thinks this thing should have optional power levels? They are in prison, set photons to lethal!!!

    August 24, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CrashDaPlace

    @ MOST of you
    Prisoners should not have a legal right... First of all, THEY'RE CRIMANALS, most of which RAPIST, MURDERERS, CHILD MOLESTERS, those are they ones that get involved in riots... They already messed up once, if they do it a second time, SCREW THEM... Let them cook, in the CHAIR...
    They're not talking about spending an extra 5 in the shower, theyre talking about LETHAL RIOTS being dispursed, before LAW ABIDING citizens (prison guards) are hurt, or killed... I'm sick of reading comments from Hippies... I bet your all from california... Go hug a damned tree...

    August 24, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • awi

      It seems that you should get tired of posting the same, ridiculous rant over and over again. Go play WoW and keep your hateful, juvenile urges secret; you're embarrassing yourself.

      August 24, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • layne


      August 24, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Patriot

    Great! Human Lab rats, good use for inmates! Soon we will see these used for crowed control suppression of protesters(ie WTO protests) and eventually on school children(we already mace and taser them so why not?)

    This device is completely safe.... according to the manufacturer.

    I'm and EE and hacker and have already made a copy of this device along with a very simple countermeasure which will reflect the IR radiation emitted from this device back on the user.( aluminum foil over cardboard!)

    P.S. actually this device has already been use to suppress WTO protesters along with the odd measure of hiring "anarchists" to discredit protesters by violent actions and vandalism. (please search for WTO protest video Seattle) to see this in action.

    August 24, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Patriot

    Woo, This county is going to go broke paying these inmates after the MASSIVE lawsuits. Using prisoners as lab rats is a violation of international human rights, treaties on prisoner abuse and US law.

    Good Job!

    P.S. I don't care what the prisoners did, if they can do this to them they can do this to ANYONE. Another step towards dystopia, God help us all.

    August 24, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
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