ODSecurity2015-07-29 07:53:24

US Correctional Facilities: Strip Search or Scan?

FACT: In excess of 13 million people are admitted each year to Correctional Facilities in the USA
FACT: In 2012, the United State Supreme Court ruled that strip searches are permitted for all arrests, including non-indictable minor offences before being admitted to correctional facilities, even if officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.

The debate will rage on over the rights and wrongs of strip searches.

Some people may say that if a "body" is in prison, then they are there for a reason, and as such normal propriety human rights should not exist.

Others like Amnesty International say that it is these very people who are subject to breaches of human rights that need protecting in particular women enduring humiliating full body cavity strip searches by male prison officers.

It is without question that inmates need to be protected from those that wish to do them harm, even from themselves. It is also of paramount importance that Prison Officers and staff are protected, hence the need for strict search procedures on any "body" entering a correctional facility - be that State or County.

Current procedures in most correctional establishments mean that any prisoner having had a contact visit with a person from outside the institution, be that with a family member or attorney, after court appearances, community service details, hospital visits, and shifts at prison jobs will be subjected to a body search, and in some States, a Full Body Cavity search, exposing their body cavities for visual inspection.

It is a necessary evil for a body to be searched after a contact visit to ensure that no contraband, be that alcohol, drugs, mobile phones, alcohol or weapons can be taken into custodial establishments.

However the degrading practice of an intimate body search where body cavities, (mouth, vagina and anus etc) are visually inspected for any hidden contraband, has led to a number of lawsuits. A number of which have been successful particularly when a person is strip searched by someone of the opposite sex.

Many jails in the US are bursting at the seams with addicts who have committed petty crimes to fund their habit, who in turn then become prisoners with a habit and attempt to bring drugs into the prison. Other prisoners will bring drugs into the prison system to sell to this ever expanding market.

Current figures (April 2015) from the Federal Bureau of Prisons state that 48.7% of inmates offences were drug related.

With traditional strip searches missing hidden contraband, many prisons in the US are now changing the way they search inmates after outside contact, with the introduction of body scanners that can see inside inmate's bodies.

Despite this, inmates will still take deadly chances to smuggle drugs into the correctional facilities, internally, in body cavities, secreted on their person, and even between dentures and gums.

As recently as 8th May, 2015 the Frederick County Sheriff's Office arrested Brittany Ann Sapp, age 23 of Hagerstown, on charges of possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), and possession of contraband in a place of confinement.

Following a traffic stop for a traffic violation on Interstate 70 the vehicle was searched and heroin was located and seized. Sapp was arrested without incident and transported to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center's (FCADC) Central Booking Unit for processing. A body scan was conducted on Sapp with the FCADC body scanner and revealed inconsistencies. Through the investigation it was determined Sapp had transported a baggie of approximately 1.7grams of heroin in her vagina into the FCADC.

Sheriff Chuck Jenkins commented, "This find of heroin on the prisoner demonstrates the importance of this technology in the detention center. Very obviously, if the heroin had not been discovered by normal search procedures the inmate would have been at immediate risk along with the fact that the heroin could have entered the facility, jeopardizing the safety and security of the facility and other inmates. In the end it would have created a situation in which the Sheriff's Office would have been liable for any bad outcome. In my opinion, the body scanner has more than paid for itself with this first discovery of heroin on this inmate."

Sheriff Jenkins pointed out that other Sheriff's Offices had already made inquiries about the body scanner and one agency very recently visited the facility for a demonstration.

Heroin is cheap and highly addictive. A sugar packet-sized dose of one gram sells on the street for $150. Heroin addicts, though, often use it in smaller, cheaper quantities - as little as $20 - that would be even easier to conceal and to get it into the jail.

Some people knowing that they will be arrested for a crime, will purposefully swallow drugs to excrete at a later time; thereby giving them a supply of drugs to sell inside the prison.

This happens with alarming regularity. Rather than the degrading process of squatting and coughing, this is high on man power, degrading to the inmate, unpleasant for the officer and not at all 100 percent efficient. Only a Body Scanner, such as the SOTER RS by Texas headquartered OD Security North America, will highlight ingested or inserted contraband.

In Westmoreland County, PA the County Prison Board has viewed a proposal from OD Security North America, which sells full-body scanners to jails.

Company President John Shannon said the System, which detects drugs, tobacco, weapons, cell phones and other contraband, would cost $118,750 to purchase. They offer a leasing program to Agencies that allow the technology to be introduced for under $20,000 a year.

The company, who are the only US manufacturer of this type of technology, has grown its Client Group since the first installation in 2014 into 9 States.

Warden, John Walton says "every inmate entering the county jail has been strip-searched. The jail, which has 592 inmates, admits between 11 and 15 inmates every day."

During a month-long period last year, four inmates were placed in disciplinary lockup when blood tests showed they used drugs behind bars and last year found 62 stamp bags of heroin a female inmate had smuggled into her cell.

County commissioners ultimately will decide whether a scanner will be added to improve security at the jail.
However it is not just drugs and weapons that are smuggled.

At the time of writing, an investigation is being carried out into how two convicted murderers Richard Matt (48) and David Sweat (48) escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora NY on 6th June 2015 using amongst other tools, a hacksaw blade, chisel, punch and screwdriver. Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor has been charged with supplying the contraband to the two felons.

A second prison worker, Gene Palmer has been arrested and charged with promoting prison contraband in the first degree. Richard Matt was shot and killed, and David Sweat is back in custody. This was the first escape since Clinton opened in 1839.

In the US some States have now opted to scan not only the inmates before entering the correctional facilities but now include staff members, visitors, contractors etc.

If this had been the case in Dannemora then two convicted murderers would probably still be serving their life sentences rather than costing the US Tax payer $1 million a day to hunt them down, according to Clinton County N.Y., District Attorney Andrew Wylie.

While Full Body Scanners may not offer a total panacea for the issue of contraband in US Correctional Facilities they will certainly make the issue of choice between "Strip Search" or "Scan" for drugs an easy one.

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