The Montgomery County Jail has a new tool that will help ensure the safety of jail staff and the inmates who are housed there.
A full body scanner was recently installed at the jail to detect drugs and other contraband that inmates may attempt to smuggle into the jail.
“It’s part of the booking process now,” Montgomery County Sheriff Ryan Needham said. “If you come in, you’re getting scanned. You will not get back into the general population without first being scanned. We’re using it, obviously, for inmates, but for all their (mattress) pads, too. That’s another popular place to conceal stuff. They’ll rip a small hole in the side and put stuff inside their mats.”
The Montgomery County Council approved the $149,000 purchase of the full body scanner earlier this year. MCSO administrators began talking about making such a purchase late last year after four cases where inmates were caught bringing things into the jail inside their body. And in recent months, an inmate in neighboring Boone County almost got a handgun into the jail before he was caught.
“Last year we had four confirmed cases that we knew of where people had smuggled in items,” Needham said. “That was the driving force behind it.”
Now Needham hopes it will act as a deterrent for those who try sneaking illegal items into the jail.
“This has spread like a wildfire back there (in the jail),” Needham said. “Word has spread quickly, which is a good thing because, at the end of the day, our goal is to not have contraband in the jail. It’s just unfortunate that we’ve gotten to the point that we have to have this. But it’s doing its job.”
Since jail staff began using the scanner last month, they have already had three “positive finds,” Needham said. Two cases were inmates attempting to sneak drugs into the jail. An electronic device was discovered in another case.
Needham said inmates try to conceal items in their cavities and in their mattresses.
During the scanning process, inmates stand inside the machine facing a certain direction for a full body scan to be conducted. Within four seconds an image pops up on a screen showing any items that might be hiding on or in the individual.
“It’s very detailed,” Needham said. “I’m shocked at how good the images are. It’s a new concept to smaller county jails. It comes down to safety and security for staff and for the inmates.”