Scanners help catch contraband at W.Va. regional jails

March 11, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Full-body scanners are now being used on inmates entering West Virginia’s regional jails to reduce contraband, corrections officials said Monday.

Inmates entering nine regional jails must now pass through a scanner similar to those at airports and courthouses, the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety said in a news release. The X-ray technology can reveal hidden objects on and within the body.

The scanners recorded 36 positive hits last month, the statement said.

Last week, a scan of a suspect who was booked at the South Central Regional Jail on a parole violation turned up syringes and a packet of a white powdery substance hidden in his body. A subsequent strip search yielded a black makeup bag with additional syringes, a crack pipe and more white powder in a plastic bag, the statement said.

The scanners also are prompting contraband to be ditched in booking areas and outside law enforcement vehicles that bring inmates to jail. More than a dozen such instances occurred in February, including discarded drugs, syringes and cellphones.

The department said reducing jail contraband saves lives, increases safety for officers and other staff members and improves outcomes for inmates who undergo substance abuse treatment and recovery services.

Before the body scanners were installed, 32 inmates were hospitalized with substance abuse issues, including overdoses, during the first six months of 2017. Medical expenses involving those inmates cost taxpayers $1.5 million.

No inmate has required life support services in facilities where scanners are operating.

“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.

The scanners were purchased through settlement proceeds of prescription drug litigation. The department is seeking additional funding to bring scanners to other correctional facilities.