Ada County Jail now using body scanner to find contraband

Posted at 8:48 AM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-12 10:48:35-05

BOISE, Idaho — It’s no surprise that some people booked into the Ada County Jail try to sneak stuff in. It’s a problem for every jail in the country. In fact, officials say some people will go to pretty extreme efforts to conceal drugs or other contraband as they are booked.

Now, the Ada County has a new a piece of equipment to help stop contraband from coming into the Jail; it’s called a SOTER RS body scanner.

“The body scanner works similar to airport security. It uses X-rays to scan inmates after their initial assessment with deputies, where they are supposed to tell if they have drugs or any other items on them,” according to an Ada County Sheriff’s Office Facebook post.

The scan takes about ten seconds. The scan goes through clothes and identifies solid objects found in clothes or hidden in other places.

“If someone was trying to hide a syringe in a sock or a small baggie of drugs in their underwear (or anywhere else), the scan is designed to pick up an anomaly” the post said.

Deputies do pat-down searches for each inmate booked into the jail.

Most inmates who go through booking are not subjected to a strip search. “Deputies used to make that decision based on an inmate’s criminal history, current charge, and behavior. Now they have the additional information provided by the scan,” the post said.

A strip search is not foolproof. Some of the more sophisticated inmates know how to effectively smuggle drugs into jail.

The Jail staff has several options if the scanner does detect solid objects in strange places. Staff can interview the person and put them in a secure area until they give up the item. Our staff can request a search warrant to get the jail’s medical unit personnel involved. Jail staff can also decide to take the person to a local hospital to get any items removed.

Jail personnel identified the SOTRER RS body scanner as the best option earlier this year. The scanner cost $104,750.

The body scanner system also saves images that can be used in court, if needed.

It also provides safety mechanisms to ensure people are not over-exposed to radiation. The Idaho Radiation Control section of Health and Welfare monitors and regulates the use of scanner system. The jail staff who operate the scanner are trained in its use and radiation safety.

The scanner is designed to emit limited radiation. Each scan averages the exposure to about 1.5 microsieverts (uSv) of radiation to the person being scanned. By comparison, a dental or hand X-ray exposes a person to about 5 uSv. A single arm X-ray is about 1 uSv. A chest x-ray is about 20 uSv.

The machine is also designed to limit radiation exposure to employees.

(photo courtesy: Ada County Sheriff’s Office