The Donkey Is Sleeping Today

No Pain, No Gain

In Civil Liberties, Politics on August 26, 2010 at 10:03 am

Tase This!

I’m a gadget guy. So you think I’d be into the new toy the LA Sheriff’s department picked up this month. It’s called the “Pain Ray” and it shoots an invisible laser beam of white-hot microwaves that makes your skin feel like it’s being seared. It’s official name is the “Active Denial System” (ADS) and it’s made by Raytheon. It was to go into use in Afghanistan this summer primarily for “crowd dispersal” but the US Military thought the Pain Ray was too controversial for the war.

That from the folks who brought you Abu Ghraib. Here’s more:

For a while now, the United States military have been playing around with a fun little weapon that is, in essence, a pain raygun. The idea is this: you want to take out an insurgent, but you don’t want to kill him, so you aim this Raytheon-design, seven and a half foot tall millimeter wave weapon at him when he’s 100 feet away and turn it on. What sensation will he feel? The unbearable agony of being burned alive… without any of the actual immolation.

Obviously, this sort of weapon is contentious, and pretty obviously at odds with our attempts at garnering the good will of the native Afghanis, so it was quickly pulled out of service.

Cooler heads prevailed in the military but the LA Sheriff’s department pounced:

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, there is one group of insurgents inhuman and evil enough to use the pain ray on: Pitchess Detention Center prisoners. Calling it the “Holy Grail of Crowd Control,” the LASD hopes to use the pain ray to reduce the 257 inmate-on-inmate assaults of this year alone, as well as the nineteen assaults on deputies. The idea is to break up incidents like riots before they get out of hand.

There’s a lot of problems with this. One big problem is that in a riot, a pain ray can’t really be aimed any better than a flamethrower, meaning you’re also going to hit the victim with unbearable agony. Furthermore, we’re already locking up way too many people for way too frivolous offenses: it’s no wonder our prisons are a pressure cooker waiting to explode. Randomly zapping people with a ray gun that essentially tortures them isn’t a good way to improve that situation.

Turns out the LASD is really into these Marquis de Sade-esque devices. They were on the forefront of using the sonic pain ray, the LRAD (which we posted on here), as early as 2005. Since we don’t have an NFL team, I guess it’s good to be first in something. But why would the LASD need such a “crowd dispersal” device in a prison? That got me into looking into the swelling inmate population in America. Here’s a chart which shows the precipitous rise in the number of incarcerated Americans from 1920 to 2006.

What the hell has happened since 1980? Here’s a closer look:

As a percentage of the population it has nearly quadrupled:

We’re locking up nearly four times the number of citizens we were 30 years ago. And when it comes to the demographics of who makes up this population, it’s sickening. More than 1 in 10 African American males between the ages of 25 and 40 are currently in prison or jail. Right now. (This is all from the 2009 US Department of Justice. Here’s a PDF with more detailed statistics.)

We have nearly 2.3 million Americans in our prison/jail system and the number keeps growing at an increasing rate which is why there’s never been a better time to be in the prison business in America. Here’s how one of the top 4 US prison companies, Correctional Corporation of America, is growing and reinvesting in its physical plants during the great recession as it anticipates continued growth:

CCA isn’t pouring nearly a third of it’s annual revenue into new property/plant investments without a reason. I’d expect that in the coming quarters, this amount of investment will begin to yield tangible returns for the Company.

Because state and federal budgets are tightening there is an incentive from some quarters for governments to privatize our prison system and get them “off the books”. But by privatizing our prison system, the offenders who would at one point and time would have been in line for rehabilitation and release (as they cost the taxpayers money and rehabilitation into society is a worthy goal) today’s “privatized” prisoners become a valuable asset to the privately-held corporations who run the prison system.

These companies are paid per head. So the more heads, the more revenue. Plus, it’s critical that this system keep creating new assets (citizen/prisoners) to keep the system profitable and growing for the shareholders. (You can read more on the “Prison-Industrial Complex” in the seminal article by Eric Schlosser here.)

Given this new paradigm, we will need more prisoners to continue to feed the private prisons that are being built in this country and all we’ll hear about is how “good” this is for our economy because it’s creating jobs and keeping America safe. Which is why, with a swelling prison population, we’re coming up with even more extreme ways of keeping the prison population under control with gadgets like the Pain Ray.

Okay, you’ve waited patiently for it. Here’s the video from Rachel showing people being shot with the Pain Ray:

My favorite part is the faux protesters with the signs “Peace Not War” being dispersed. Obviously, they need to be punished. They’re not profitable.

– SH

Here’s more on the sonic Pain Ray, the LRAD, which was used at the G-20.

  1. The pain ray looks like a great tool to quell social unrest(we are going to see much more unrest when they quit extending unemployment benefits ) …beats the hell out of a baton to the noggin or a rubber bullit to the temple or gut ,but then i am someone who believes that looters should be shot on sight.You obviously dislike the pain ray.What method of protecting other peoples property and rights would you prefer,when asking the perps to subside in their antisocial behavior just does not seem to get the job done?

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