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Speak Out Against the "Pain Ray" at L.A. County Jail

Will Matthews,
ACLU of Northern California
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August 31, 2010

The ACLU took to the airwaves this week to advance its advocacy against the implementation of Assault Intervention Devices — invisible microwave beam weapons originally developed by the military — as a way of subduing inmates at the Los Angeles County Jail by focusing a microwave beam on them to make them feel intolerable heat.

Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU National Prison Project, told host Sonali Kolhatkar on the show “Uprising” on KPFK-FM in Los Angeles yesterday that because we don’t have a full understanding of just how dangerous this weapon can be, subjecting inmates to this technology puts their lives at risk — a clear violationof the Eighth Amendment and the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The military incarnation of the device was briefly fielded in Afghanistan this past June before being withdrawn in July without ever being used. While the device was being tested by the Air Force, a miscalibration of the device’s power settings caused five airmen in its path to suffer lasting burns, including one whose injuries were so severe that he was airlifted to an off-base burn treatment center.

This morning, on the KPFK program “Sojourner Truth with Margaret Prescod,” Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, said, “the fact that this weapon was never used by the military should be red flag enough for people to be angry and outraged and to contact the Board of Supervisors and say this is an experiment that shouldn’t be allowed to go forward.”