They’re already used on prisoners in some jurisdictions. The company itself lists some testimonials on its web site. A detention center in San Juan County, New Mexico, demonstrated the device on a prison guard back in 2012. A Missouri sheriff’s department tested a similar device from a different manufacturer in 2013. They too found it extremely amusing to debilitate colleagues with painful shocks. Lots of young men would react similarly, hence my reluctance to let them put devices they approach with jocularity rather than seriousness on people that they disdain.
I am hardly alone in finding stun-cuffs creepy and suggestive of evil––for goodness sakes, Darth Vader seems to have pioneered their use on the Death Star.
Back in the real world, there are a depressing number of news articles about parents arrested for putting shock collars intended for dogs on their children. Of course, no one would equate kids with prisoners acting up in custody. But the stories are narrowly relevant for two reasons: they’re written as though the shocks are self-evidently cruel, though they’re far weaker and less painful than what stun-cuffs deliver; and in at least one instance, a man was arrested for putting a shock collar on his kid that he never used, suggesting that on some level, even law enforcement understands that it isn’t just being shocked that matters in these situations––the burden of knowing that someone has a finger on a button that could deliver a shock at any moment matters too. When these stun-cuffs are preemptively placed on prisoners, those who don’t misbehave will still suffer that psychological trauma; and recall that many prisoners have not yet been convicted of any crime.
Those problems would give pause even if America’s police officers and prison guards were not prone to excessive force and prisoner abuse. In the real world, these devises are bound for a profession where both problems are epidemic. “Here at Myers Enterprises, Inc., we like to say our devices turn bad boys into choir boys,” the company told Police One magazine in what is either a sponsored post or a softball interview with a sponsor. “Once the device has been explained, dry fired, and then applied to the individual, 99.9 percent of the time the prisoner is calm and complies with all orders. This allows officers to be professional in their duties.”
But I cannot believe that a profession regularly seen abusing their Tasers on YouTube will misuse stun-cuffs so seldom as to not be worth discussing, and worry that they could even help turn some prison guards into bad boys. Judges are typically better behaved, but one has already been removed from the bench after ordering a bailiff to shock a defendant during a criminal trial merely to stop him from speaking.
Cruelly, the bailiff complied, as if to confirm the real-world relevance of Stanley Milgram’s famous experiment. Its subjects were surprisingly willing to administer substantial shocks to innocent people when so ordered by authority figures, even when able to hear loud screams from their victims as they cried out in ostensible agony.