Salt Lake County inmates to face full body scanners

Posted at 10:15 PM, Sep 24, 2014

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah -- The Salt Lake County Metro Jail is installing a new deterrent to keep inmates from sneaking contraband into the facility.

The jail will start using state-of-the-art, full body scanners to check inmates booked into their facility.

The scanners are similar to the ones used at airports a few years ago, but Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said the images from these new scanners are much more detailed where it counts, but aren’t as intrusive and don’t show facial or "private" body parts.

"They will be scanning inmates who are going to be dressed into our facility, that means they have been processed and we know that they are going to be housed in our facility,” Winder said. “They'll also be used to process all inmates going out to transportation to court or being brought back in."

Winder said inmates trying to smuggle in contraband is a daily problem. So far this year they've had 500 instances where officers have confiscated illegal items, everything from weapons to narcotics, and even smaller objects many don't consider dangerous.

"This particular technology allows us to see not only items that are in pockets or soles of shoes, but also inside of body cavities," Winder said.

Officer Mark Hintze added, "Once the knowledge of this is out, this will be a huge deterrent because they know we'll be able to see it so people will think twice before they bring it in."

The scanners use "transmission imaging" and authorities said it would take 4,000 scans from one of these machines to equal one X-ray at a medical facility. Since the scans are so detailed, they're expected to eliminate 99 percent of strip and cavity searches, procedures officers like Hintze said don't always work.

"After looking at this and going through the training and looking at what other facilities have found, it'll be very beneficial,” he said.

The Salt Lake County Metro Jail is the first facility to implement this technology in Utah. They plan to start using the scanners by October. The two scanners cost just under $300,000.

Sheriff Winder stressed the money did not come from taxpayers, but was funded by inmate service funds from the commissary.