|LA County Dept's Assault Intervention Device:Michael Owen Baker/Daily News/AP Photo|
(Story reported by Thomas Watkins for the Associated Press)
LOS ANGELES — A device designed to control unruly inmates by blasting them with a beam of intense energy that causes a burning sensation is drawing heat from civil rights groups who fear it could cause serious injury and is "tantamount to torture."
The mechanism, known as an "Assault Intervention Device," is a stripped-down version of a military gadget that sends highly focused beams of energy at people and makes them feel as though they are burning. The Los Angeles County sheriff's department plans to install the device by Labor Day, making it the first time in the world the technology has been deployed in such a capacity.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California criticized Sheriff Lee Baca's decision in a letter sent Thursday, saying that the technology amounts to a ray gun at a county jail. The 4-feet-tall weapon, which looks like a cross between a robot and a satellite radar, will be mounted on the ceiling and can swivel.
It is remotely controlled by an operator in a separate room who lines up targets with a joystick.
The ACLU said the weapon was "tantamount to torture," noting that early military versions resulted in five airmen suffering lasting burns. It requested a meeting with Baca, who declined the invitation.
(Click here to read the full story on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website)