St. Mary's Law Journal


The Remote Electronically Activated Control Technology (REACT) belt infringes upon criminal defendants’ and prisoners’ fundamental rights; therefore, it cannot withstand judicial scrutiny under the United States and Texas Constitutions. This Comment attempts to address and answer issues regarding the REACT belt. The belt constitutes cruel and unusual punishment with the potential to deprive prisoners of their due process rights. The belt disrupts attorney-client communication and destroys a criminal defendant’s presumption of innocence. Furthermore, other alternatives provide effective means to prevent unruly prisoners from destroying the integrity of the courts. Part II of this Comment discusses how the belt works, and the physical/mental effects resulting from its use. Part III examines the constitutionality of forcing criminal defendants to wear the belt at trial—focusing on the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. Part III also compares the belt to two recognized legitimate means of inflicting punishment prior to conviction: denial of pretrial bail and shackling of defendants. Part IV analyzes whether the use of the security belt prevents a client from effectively communicating with his attorney, thereby denying the defendant the due process protections provided by the Sixth Amendment. Part V then evaluates the constitutionally mandated presumption of innocence and assesses whether the belt, coupled with its potential for inadvertent activation, has the capacity to destroy that right. Part VI considers the belt’s use in Texas and examines its constitutionality under the Texas Constitution. Finally, Part VII argues the belt’s use should be indefinitely suspended or its voltage should be decreased to a reasonable level. By taking the necessary steps to ensure the belts are no longer used in the criminal justice system, courts and legislatures will uphold the tradition of the United States and Texas Constitutions and the rights guaranteed to all.


St. Mary's University School of Law