NAPLES — They’re intended to detect weapons, dangerous contraband and drugs. Turns out, inmates at the Collier County Jail prefer candy.
Since the Collier County jail was selected to be the pilot location for a whole-body scanner in February, more than 20,500 people and inmates have been scanned.
Though the $250,000 high-tech body scanner, RadPRO SecurPASS, was given to the Collier lockup because of the rise of prescription drug abuse in the county, the Sheriff’s Office said, no drugs have been found after scanning incoming or current inmates.
That said, the machine, which is unlike airport scanners, has served a purpose.
“It’s been a benefit,” said Lt. Keith Harmon, who is in charge of the body scanner project at the jail. “It’s cost saving and time saving. From what we’ve seen, it’s been a deterrent.”
Harmon said the scanners, which are used instead of conducting a full-body strip search, have not found anything suspicious. He said some people have tried to sneak in candy in their socks or waistband.
The worst that has been found was a cell phone, which was handed to the on-duty deputy before the individual was scanned.
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“I’m not sure if word got out that we have these scanners now,” Harmon said. “But, people are not trying to bring anything in here, we haven’t found anything big.”
Harmon said prescription pills — one of the main reasons Collier was selected over other county jails — have been found on the floor near the scanners, but nothing on a person after he or she has been told to walk through the scanners.
The SecurPASS scanner is a virtual body scan that allows detection of contraband both externally and internally without requiring the inmate to disrobe.
Even so, strip searches are not entirely eliminated. If the scanner does detect something, then a strip search will be needed. Time-wise, a strip search takes about five minutes and scanners take no more than a minute.
Unlike the body scanners at the airport, the scanners do not show any soft tissue. The scanners are expected to 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 can also detect all metallic, non-metallic, organic or inorganic contraband, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The machine was purchased by the Sheriff’s Office through a grant from the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) at a discount from Virtual Imaging Inc., a Deerfield Beach-based subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., which manufactures the RadPRO SecurPASS. Though nearly $50,000 was chopped from the price-tag, the jail must open its doors to other agencies curious about the scanners.
Harmon said Los Angeles County’s sheriff flew in to check out the scanners. From his visit, Harmon said, the LA County jail might be getting at least one scanner.
“They were very impressed by it,” Harmon said.
After visiting the Collier jail, Pasco County Jail purchased a scanner. That means the Collier jail is no longer the only site in the state with the body scanner.
While the Collier County Jail has benefited from the scanner, if only as a deterrent, the Lee County Jail is not yet able to buy a RadPRO SecurPASS.
“We’re always interested in new technology that deters an individual from bringing in contraband,” said Col. Thomas Ellegood, the Lee sheriff’s Fort Myers bureau of corrections commander. “But, there are no available funds.”