What gives an electric jolt as strong as a typical Tase but is designed for prisoners already in police custody rather than suspects not yet arrested? Wireless "Stun-Cuffs" from Myers Enterprises. "Today's criminal is more hardened, desperate, and more dangerous than ever," its imperfectly punctuated brochure warns. "Whether taking a prisoner for a doctor visit, transporting them for trial, interrogations or dealing with a prisoner that is under the influence. They must be controlled."
Here's how the devices work: A prisoner's wrists or ankles are cuffed––and then, if the person holding the transmitter desires, he or she can send tens of thousands of volts of electricity coursing through the prisoner's body from a distance of up to 100 yards. As the brochure puts it: "A demonstration of this in front of a prisoner and they will know if they are out of compliance the Single Cuff model will drop them." – The Atlantic, June 25, 2015
In a 1968 Star Trek episode titled "The Gamesters of Triskelion," disembodied aliens abduct Captain Kirk and two of his crew for their own entertainment. They fit the humans with special collars that create enormous pain on command, thereby ensuring compliance.
Of course, Captain Kirk finds a heroic way to escape the situation. Actual 2015 prisoners fitted with "Stun-Cuffs" from Myers Enterprises are not so lucky. Their keepers can inflict agony on command from up to 100 yards away.
Myers looks like a small company and the devices don't appear to be widely used – yet. Lawyers will surely argue the pain constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment." Unlike a Taser, which helps apprehend suspects, Stun-Cuffs are expressly designed to use on people authorities already apprehended.
The company's demonstration videos show law enforcement officers giggling as they try Stun-Cuffs. The one wearing it does not laugh; the device obviously inflicts staggering pain at the push of a button. Given that we already have a problem with excessive police violence, we can safely bet they will find even more uses for Stun-Cuffs. The Milgram experiments suggest the results will be ugly.
The Myers Enterprises brochure includes a chilling line: "They must be controlled." History is replete with power-hungry politicians who define "they" far more broadly than common criminals. The quest to "control" always pushes its boundaries – and usually breaks through.
That being the case, it is only a matter of time before this technology spreads. The 100-yard limitation will probably improve, too. Why bother with prison walls? Just put Stun-Cuffs on all the prisoners and hang a few transmitters to zap those who stray too far.
Imagine how terrifying this will be when the IRS adopts it. Late with your tax payment? Zap.
Employers might adopt it, too. Workers must be controlled. Still off your feet after break time ends? Zap.
The utility will grow exponentially when the government fits everyone with collars. Think of all the out-of-control behavior that would disappear.
Late on your child support? Zap. Jaywalking? Zap zap. Eating too many donuts? Zap zap zap.
Star Trek was supposed to give us a peek at the future. This is one part I would rather not see.
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