Body scanners catching drugs, savings lives in WV regional jails
scanners catching drugs, savings lives in W.Va. regional jails
W.Va. – The suspect was being booked at the South Central
Regional Jail on a parole violation one morning last week. He had been jailed there
previously – but this time faced a full-body scanner as part of the intake
The scan got a hit: syringes and a packet of
a white powdery substance hidden in his body. A subsequent strip search yielded
even more contraband: a black makeup bag containing additional syringes, a
crack pipe, and more white powder in a baggie.
Inmates entering nine of West Virginia’s
regional jails must now pass through a Soter RS Body Scanner. Similar to the
devices found at airports and courthouses, the full-body scanners employ X-ray
technology to reveal objects hidden both on and within the human body.
The scanners recorded 36 positive hits
last month. They are also prompting would-be smugglers to ditch contraband in
the booking areas and even outside the law enforcement vehicles that brought
them to the jail. There was more than a dozen such instances in February, with
several types of drugs, syringes and even cell phones found.
The full-body scanners provide an
additional, crucial tool to intercept drugs, weapons and other contraband. Reducing
contraband increases safety for officers and other staff. It improves outcomes
for inmates receiving substance use disorder treatment and recovery services.
It also saves lives.
Smuggled drugs have resulted in inmate
overdose deaths and lengthy hospitalizations. At the Western Regional Jail, for
example, at least eight female inmates suffered overdoses in 2017 that required
emergency doses of Narcan and hospital stays for several of those affected.
“We’re failing the public if people come
into our facilities and have access to drugs and when they leave here they’re
still addicted to those drugs,” said Military Affairs and Public Safety
Secretary Jeff Sandy, whose Cabinet department includes Corrections and
During the first six months of 2017,
before the body scanners were installed, 32 inmates ended up in the hospital
because of substance abuse issues including overdoses. Narcan doses, hospital
life support and other medical expenses from those inmates cost taxpayers $1.5
million. In facilities where scanners are operating, no inmate has since
required life support services.
Prescription drug litigation settlement
proceeds allowed DMAPS to purchase the jail scanners as well as one for inmate
work crews at the Pruntytown Correctional Center. The department is pursuing
additional funding to bring full-body scanners to the remaining correctional
The scanners’ manufacturer provided the
initial training for correctional officers. The Department of Health and Human
Resources helped develop the policy to ensure the safe operation of the