A More Efficient Torture?

Image from patentbolt.com

One for the “Technology Outpaces Our Humanity” files: Patent Bolt is reporting on a new pair of handcuffs that not only restrain, but shock or deliver drugs or irritants. Basically, they’re taser cuffs.

Oh joy. I bet that will never be abused.

Read and wonder:

While the new system focuses on handcuffs, the inventors clarified that the new system could equally apply to ankle cuffs, straightjackets, neck collars, helmets and even facial restraints such as the one used in the film Hannibal. The next generation handcuffs will be super high tech with built-in sensors such as accelerometers, potentiometer, inclinometer, biometric sensors, camera sensors and more. But the kicker to this invention is that these future handcuffs will be able to combine standard restraining mechanisms alongside those that could deliver a powerful electric shock to detainees and/or administer medications to sedate or irritate them.

The use of tasers is getting out of hand, and remote control or automatic taser cuffs will just send it spiraling right off a cliff. Try to remember: torture is an objective evil, meaning it can never be licit. Tasers and other non-lethal techniques are in fact quite humane in some circumstances, and save lives for both law enforcement and civilians.

But progress never comes free, and the trade off is that overzealous, frightened, or just plain sadistic police are more ready to deal out extreme pain under the guise of non-lethality. Sure, they may well help with restraining violent prisoners. So would attaching electrodes directly to their genitals. I’m just curious: where do we draw that line?

I’m not saying that I know, I’m really asking: where are the limits, and how do we know we we reach them?

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • victor

    Aaaand it comes with a proprietary wall-wart power supply! What, no power-over-USB port for charging?
    Torture = Evil (proprietary power supplies less so).

  • Jon

    Torture can never be licit?

    Even if it extracts information that saves lives, or even souls? Never say never.

    Discomfort to the wicked is not more evil than allowing innocents to die, or than allowing the redeemable to die unredeemed.

  • Faramir


    Yes, never ever ever. I’m sure someone can dig up the links to Mark Shea’s blog or any of the other places where this issue has been discussed ad infinitum.

    And are you suggesting we return to medieval-style putting heretics on the rack? Because that’s the only thing I can get out of your “allowing the redeemable to die unredeemed” remark.

  • Subsistent

    Toward “drawing the line” on torture: Seems to me, the Catechism defines torture (Latin “cruciatus”, in CCC # 2297) as “use of physical or moral violence in order to extract confessions, punish persons reckoned guilty of something, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred”. (By contrast, use of not-deliberately-excessive physical violence in order to defend self from an aggressor, being for another purpose than any of those the Catechism lists, doesn’t come under this definition.)
    Notice here that loud noises used strategically in a just war to “frighten opponents” are not necesarily torture, because they’re not “violence”, as the definition requires. It is non-idle threats (as in a harrassing phone call) which can frighten an adversary by “moral violence” — a phrase I take as equivalent to “mental or psychological violence”. And corporal punishment, even a simple spanking, can amount to torture if it’s in order to satiate or gratify hatred. And “deprivation of comfort” can amount to torture if it amounts to violence. And even supposing a justifiable instance of capital punishment, using a deliberately more painful means than necessary to kill the one punished, would amount to “satiating a hatred”, and would thus be torture.