New "Laser" Weapon Debuts in LA County Jail

"Assault Intervention Device" comes to Pitchess Detention Center

By John Adams
|  Monday, Aug 23, 2010  |  Updated 7:17 AM PDT
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The Assault Intervention Device will be used at <a title=Pitchess Detention Center." />

The Assault Intervention Device will be used at Pitchess Detention Center.

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Guards at the Los Angeles County jail complex in Castaic will start using a newfangled weapon that produces a deep burning sensation -- which is not to be confused with a “warm fuzzy feeling” -- in whomever it is aimed at.

The 7 1/2-foot-tall “Assault Intervention Device,” which sheriff's deputies demonstrated Friday at the Pitchess Detention Center, emits an invisible beam that causes an unbearable sensation, reported the Daily News.

The device will be mounted near the ceiling in a unit housing about 65 inmates, sheriff's Cmdr. Bob Osborne of the sheriff' Technology Exploration Program told the newspaper.

“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,” said Osborne. “So that we have fewer injuries, fewer assaults, those kinds of things.”

Deputies have tested the device on themselves and say the invisible beam is painful -- especially when it's not expected.

“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,” said Osborne.

The pain stops when you move out of the beam's path, which people do instinctively.

The device, developed by Raytheon, is controlled by a joystick and computer monitor and emits a beam about the size of a CD up to distances of about 100 feet.

The energy traveling at the speed of light penetrates the skin up to 1/64 of an inch deep. No one can stand being in the beam's path for more than about three seconds, Mike Booen of Raytheon told the Daily News.

The device is being evaluated for a period of six months by the National Institute of Justice for use in jails nationwide.

Sheriff's deputies are getting to try it out for free.

About 3,700 inmates are housed at Pitchess, where 257 inmate-on-inmate assaults occurred in the first half of the year.

Do you think this is a controversial weapon with the potential for major misuse and abuse, or is it just another way to restore order in our prisons? Let us know what you think. Comment below, send us your thoughts via Twitter @NBCLA or add your comment to our Facebook page.

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