Body scanners overcome privacy issues

Leeuwarden, the Netherlands and College Station, Tx (USA)

In the US the debate will rage on over the rights and wrongs of strip searches in correctional facilities.  Some people may say that if a “body” is in prison, then they are there for a reason, and as such normal propriety human rights should not exist. Others like Amnesty International say that it is these very people who are subject to breaches of human rights that need protecting in particular women enduring humiliating full body cavity strip searches by male prison officers.

It is without question that inmates need to be protected from those that wish to do them harm, even from themselves. It is also of paramount importance that Prison Officers and staff are protected, hence the need for strict search procedures on any “body” entering a correctional facility – be that State or County.

According to OD Security, current procedures in most correctional establishments mean that any prisoner having had a contact visit with a person from outside the institution, be that with a family member or attorney, after court appearances, community service details, hospital visits, and shifts at prison jobs will be subjected to a body search, and in some States, a full body cavity search, exposing their body cavities for visual inspection.

It is a necessary evil for a body to be searched after a contact visit to ensure that no contraband, be that alcohol, drugs, mobile phones, alcohol or weapons can be taken into custodial establishments.  However the degrading practice of an intimate body search where body cavities are visually inspected for any hidden contraband, has led to a number of lawsuits. A number of which have been successful particularly when a person is strip searched by someone of the opposite sex.

Many jails in the US are bursting at the seams with addicts who have committed petty crimes to fund their habit, and OD Security has found that current figures (April 2015) from the Federal Bureau of Prisons state that 48.7% of inmates offences were drug related.  With traditional strip searches missing hidden contraband, many prisons in the US are now changing the way they search inmates after outside contact, with the introduction of body scanners that can see inside inmate’s bodies.

Despite this, inmates will still take deadly chances to smuggle drugs into the correctional facilities, internally, in body cavities, secreted on their person, and even between dentures and gums.

As recently as 8th May, 2015 the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office arrested Brittany Ann Sapp, age 23 of Hagerstown, on charges of possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), and possession of contraband in a place of confinement, later detected and confirmed by a Soter body scanner.  Some people knowing that they will be arrested for a crime, will purposefully swallow drugs to excrete at a later time; thereby giving them a supply of drugs to sell inside the prison.

This happens with alarming regularity. Rather than the degrading process of squatting and coughing, this is high on man power, degrading to the inmate, unpleasant for the officer and not at all 100 percent efficient. A Body Scanner, such as the Soter RS by Texas headquartered OD Security North America, will highlight ingested or inserted contraband.

In Westmoreland County, PA the County Prison Board has viewed a proposal from OD Security North America, which sells full-body scanners to jails.

Company President John Shannon said the System, which detects drugs, tobacco, weapons, cell phones and other contraband, would cost $118,750 to purchase. They offer a leasing program to Agencies that allow the technology to be introduced for under $20,000 a year.  The company, believed to be the only US manufacturer of this type of technology, has grown its Client Group since the first installation in 2014 into 9 States.  County commissioners ultimately will decide whether a scanner will be added to improve security at the jail.

However it is not just drugs and weapons that are smuggled in and not only by prisoners but also by prison staff, other items such as tools, hacksaw blades, chisels, punches and screwdrivers could also be identified with a scanner.  In the US some States have now opted to scan not only the inmates before entering the correctional facilities but now include staff members, visitors, contractors etc.

While Full Body Scanners may not offer a total panacea for the issue of contraband in US Correctional Facilities they will certainly make the issue of choice between “Strip Search” or “Scan” for drugs an easy one.


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