NAPLES — Collier County has the first county jail in Florida to have a whole-body security scanner, which debuted Wednesday.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is deploying the high-tech body scanner, RadPRO SecurPASS, saying that it will detect contraband coming into and circulating in the jail.
Collier County Corrections Chief Scott Salley said Collier was chosen to be the pilot location in Southwest Florida, because of the advent of prescription drug abuse.
By the end of the day on Friday it will have been used 3,000 times - scanning current inmates, their clothing, linens, and mattresses. All inmates will be scanned.
“The importance of an effective and thorough search cannot be stressed enough,” said Jail Captain Beth Richards. “In a potentially volatile environment like the jail, an unarmed deputy must rely on stringent security and search procedures to ensure a secure and safe environment for both the inmates and staff.”
Typically, these scanners cost $250,000, but being a luminary site, it was sold to the county for less than $200,000, said Dennis Wolfe of Virtual Imaging Inc., the Deerfield Beach-based subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., which manufactures the RadPRO SecurPASS.
Salley said the scanner was purchased through a grant from the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).
The scanners, that do not show any soft tissue like the airport scanners, will ensure deputies can safely and easily find weapons like guns and knives as well as other contraband such as cell phones and illegal and prescription drugs that inmates might be carrying. The scanner will detect all metallic, non-metallic, organic or inorganic contraband, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
“This scanner is a new technology that not only improves safety for officers and inmates alike, it saves money by making the search process far more efficient,” said Sheriff Kevin J. Rambosk.
The scanner is much less intrusive than the comparable strip search procedure currently being used by the jail. A strip search typically takes 15 minutes, compared to a scan, which is about 7 seconds.
The SecurPASS scanner is a virtual body scan that allows detection of contraband both externally and internally without requiring the inmate to disrobe.
That being said, strip searches are not being fully eliminated.
“They’ll really go through (the scanner) one time. If the scanner detects contraband, at that time, (officers) will have to do a strip search,” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Michelle Batten said.
The scanner will also detect contraband in shoes, mattresses, body orifices and any other object.
Collier County’s system is unlike the current scanners deployed by the federal government at airports around the country that utilize surface rendering technology, Wolfe said. Airport scanning machines only detect contraband concealed under clothing, while Collier’s scanner can identify anything concealed under clothing or inside a person’s body cavity, he said.
Also unlike airport scanners, the Sheriff’s Office scanner ensures that the inmate’s privacy is protected because it does not show a person’s anatomical outline or facial features.
“This is leading edge technology for contraband detection because you can’t hide anything from it,” Wolfe said.
One by one inmates step barefoot onto a platform that moves them through an imaging portal, where they are instructed to hold their shoes at their sides, and look down.
Within seconds the scan is complete. Since the human body is naturally symmetrical, the scan measures density. If one side of the body on the scan seems lighter, or without any dark spots, there will be nothing hidden. But, if it does, through questioning the individual, deputies can determine what it is -weapons, contraband, etc.
Wolfe said he will be returning to the pilot program next week to ensure all questions are answered and the device is operating smoothly.
But, comparatively, the airport scanners, which can see items a half-inch thick, are more harmful than the SecurPASS, Wolfe said, despite it being able to see items less than .02 inches thick.
Each scan involves a highly filtered imaging beam that is well below federal guidelines. Jail officials likened the imaging procedure to about 30 minutes in the Florida sun or 3 minutes of commercial flight time.
An inmate would have to be imaged 400 times on the SecurPASS to equal one chest X-ray or dental X-ray series, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The only other scanner in Florida is at the Federal Correction Complex in Coleman, and it was purchased about a year ago, Wolfe said. Another scanner is also at a smaller prison in Alabama.
Salley said their looking forward to sharing the new scanner with other counties as soon as possible.