capable of delivering an extended jolt of 50,000 volts
August 1, 2019 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Shock Treatment in Court Stun belts are intended to keep control in the courtroom, but some judges use them to inflict punishment. [The Marshall Project]
posted by readinghippo (23 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Love it when every new tumble into the worst possible of everything just feels on-brand and predictable. Oh so this is happening now huh, sure. That IS something they would see fit to do. What sadistic brutality is destroying the rule of law and human rights today in the name of safety and security that actually makes us much less safe and secure? Oh they're just electro-shocking criminal defendants oh ok sure what took them so long.

When Calvert again failed to stand up to address the judge, an officer activated the device, according to court records. Calvert screamed for five seconds. “I’m sure the Court very much enjoyed that,” he said. Skeen then revoked Calvert’s right to represent himself.

5 seconds is a LONG time to hear someone screaming. When the judge could have revoked his right to represent himself instead. At the very least anyone who signs up to push the button on these things must be made to experience it in the context of being a defendant in a kangaroo court trial. Or just scrap this entire system and try again, this is broken from top to bottom. (Or it's not broken yes I know it's "working as intended" but still, abolish prisons).
posted by bleep at 10:55 AM on August 1, 2019 [13 favorites]


*i don't love it, I hate it so much that just saying "I hate this" feels insufficient, I just need to express that the enormity of how much I feel this is akin to going all the way around the world and coming back up the other side
posted by bleep at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


The beatings will continue until morale improves it appears. I can't imagine being able to do much other than try to continue breathing after a 50k volt shock. But answer questions?, recollect events from maybe years before?, and defend myself?......yeah...not so much.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 11:02 AM on August 1, 2019 [8 favorites]


When defendants are shocked — triggering screams and involuntary movements — they are likely to seem more dangerous to jurors, said NYU law professor Paul Chevigny. “It seems difficult for me to see that under those conditions the defendant is getting a fair trial,” Chevigny said. “The jury is terrified of you and the situation and think you must be some kind of monster.”
Ok, who's looking at someone screaming because the judge is electrocuting them and going "The guy being electrocuted is dangerous" and not "That judge is a monster"?
posted by CrystalDave at 11:33 AM on August 1, 2019 [15 favorites]


Growing up I remember the principal having an electric paddle to use on "bad" kids. You know, because a regular paddle isn't bad enough. Those got banned eventually, but it looks like my state is still using stun belts in court. I see (at the very least) a correlation.

See also "The cruelty is the point", etc etc.
posted by pianoblack at 11:33 AM on August 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


There's another thread on the blue today about what level of wealth/income/class makes one eligible to be called "rich". Nobody can quite agree on the definition, but we can probably all agree that the folks getting shocked in court are probably not rich.
posted by splitpeasoup at 11:53 AM on August 1, 2019 [4 favorites]


Ok, who's looking at someone screaming because the judge is electrocuting them and going "The guy being electrocuted is dangerous" and not "That judge is a monster"?

Apparently Texans.

I suppose the "logic" goes: See bad guy in prison garb > judge shocks bad guy > think: wow, bad guy must be really bad for the judge to have to do that > hangin's too good for him
posted by Thorzdad at 11:59 AM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


What. The. Actual. Fuck.

Dismantle the entire "justice" system in this country. It's beyond repair. We need to come up with something else. Maybe just nothing.
posted by xingcat at 12:31 PM on August 1, 2019 [8 favorites]


I'm having an extended fantasy right now where I'm a juror in that case and I stand up and say "No! You will not treat this person like that in my presence!" I like to think these fantasies are useful for when something like that does eventually happen in my presence and I need to speak up instead of remaining silent. I hope I'll be able to act appropriately when the time comes.
posted by M-x shell at 1:20 PM on August 1, 2019 [10 favorites]


The cruelty is the point.
posted by Reyturner at 1:29 PM on August 1, 2019


so when are these going to be mandatory at Amazon warehouses and then all schools?
posted by The Whelk at 2:15 PM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


“I’m sure the Court very much enjoyed that,” he said.

Stanley Milgram was not writing how-to manuals.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:15 PM on August 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


Jesus wept.

Judges who use this as an administrative penalty against a defendant should be removed from the bench and tried for assault and battery. If a guard acquiesced to the demand, they should be fired and tried for assault and battery, too. Helpfully, there should be court transcripts that can be entered into evidence against them, though I don't know how a court reporter would write down five seconds of screaming in intense pain for the record.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:27 PM on August 1, 2019 [12 favorites]


So.... Parable of the Talents by Octavia E Butler was not intended to be an instruction manual. Who's got the up and down on when we get the first witch burning?
posted by stet at 3:02 PM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


so when are these going to be mandatory at Amazon warehouses and then all schools?


The devices will only be used when quotas are not met, thus leaving the real power in the hands of the employees themselves.
posted by Cosine at 3:19 PM on August 1, 2019 [8 favorites]


Look, nerve stapling is nobody's first choice, OK? But there's a production quota to meet and at some point the drones have to accept that riots are not acceptable.
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:06 PM on August 1, 2019 [5 favorites]




Dismantle the entire "justice" system in this country. It's beyond repair. We need to come up with something else. Maybe just nothing.
Yeah, no. The Politicians' Fallacy is never a good argument. If my head is stuffed up, removing it will certainly keep me from sneezing, but there are ... other issues too.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 8:19 PM on August 1, 2019


I don't know much about how electricity gets calculated, why wouldn't 50,000 volts be instantly lethal?

I don't know much more than you do, but the key distinction I carry around in my brain is between volts and amps; higher voltage (even much higher voltage) isn't in principle more dangerous, so long as the amperage remains sufficiently low. Presumably the shock devices are tuned low accordingly, though "we're pretty sure this won't kill most people" isn't exactly a passing grade in ethics. Cf. tasers, which IIRC operate at similar voltages.
posted by cortex at 8:33 PM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's current that determines the damage (you'll just about feel 1mA, while 100mA can cause heart fibrillation), but voltage determines how much current can flow. For DC, Ohm's law, current = voltage/resistance (AC is more complex due to phase); so given a fixed resistance between two contact points, higher voltage will result in a higher current. This also is why having wet skin is more a risk with electric shocks, as it lowers resistance and thus allows a higher current. Though there may be a current limit on the source, which caps how much current can flow - for example, an RCD will trip above a certain low level of current flow to earth, indicating a short, preventing a more dangerous electric shock.

This is all fairly basic electricity safety info. What's utterly inhumane is that it's come up as a result of how dangerous shocking prisoners in a court room is. That you even have it on the accused in the first place, THEN that a judge feels justified using it when the accused won't stand up on command and isn't immediately removed from the bench and grounds for a mistrial... As a not american, words fail me. This equipment and its use is shameful and horrific. It is barbarism.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 11:10 PM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's current that determines the damage

Absolutely No You-Know-What: Can you give me a comparison or some kind of analogy that communicates the difference between the electric chair and the shock belt?
posted by bendy at 1:08 AM on August 2, 2019


bendy-- thinking of it like a waterfall helps me visualize it-- voltage is the height of the waterfall, whereas current is how much water is flowing over the waterfall.

When you get a static shock-- it's like standing under a tricking waterfall-- each drop that hits you is going at a certain speed due to the height of the fall-- but it's nothing major, the higher the waterfall the more it might sting when a drop hits you.

But if you keep standing there and a massive storm happens upstream, and a torrent of water comes crashing over the waterfall-- the speed of the water is still the same, but now you're battered and carried away downstream due to the flow (current) of the water.

I'd rather stand under a massive 400m tall/high voltage waterfall with a trickling/low current, then under a smaller waterfall (in height/voltage) like Niagra which has high current.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:27 AM on August 2, 2019


The electric chair is like being tossed in an incinerator, while the stun device is more like touching a hot stove, experientially, for most people.

The delivered power is probably more akin to the difference between baking yourself in an industrial microwave oven and using a cell phone, but that understates the health risk of tasers and similar devices.
posted by wierdo at 7:33 AM on August 2, 2019


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