Thursday, June 20, 2019

Mahoning County eyes jail scanner purchase

Published: 6/10/16 @ 12:04

By Peter H. Milliken


The Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office wants to buy a $212,000 digital full-body, airport-style scanning machine to screen all inmates entering and leaving the county jail, Maj. Alki Santamas, jail administrator, told the county commissioners.

“This body scanner is a very positive benefit for the security of the jail and the safety of the inmates in there,” Sheriff Jerry Greene told the commissioners during their Thursday staff meeting.

Greene and Santamas spoke after nonfatal overdoses by two county jail inmates Monday, caused by a drug believed to be fentanyl, which reportedly was smuggled into the jail in a body cavity of a third inmate, who has been charged with carrying the drug into the lockup.

“We dodged a bullet on Monday,” when jail medical staff swiftly administered Narcan to the inmates who had overdosed, Santamas said.

County officials had discussed the body-scanner purchase in January, Greene said.

The machine, which emits a low dose of radiation, performs an 8-second X-ray scan of inmates and can see through clothing to find contraband, according to the manufacturer’s promotional literature.

The Securpass body scanner, which weighs 1,433 pounds, is made by Virtual Imaging Inc. of Deerfield Beach, Fla., a Canon U.S.A. company.

“It’s not like you’re going to look naked on the picture,” said Gina Bricker, an assistant county prosecutor. “You do not see soft tissue, so those types of privacy issues are not here.”

If a scan detects something in a body cavity, the inmate would be taken to a hospital for its removal, Santamas said.

“We need to have modernization [of the inmate screening process], especially with all this heroin,” said Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.

“The fact that this is just there will be a deterrent” to smuggling of contraband into the jail, Bricker said of the scanner.

Many large county jails have bought and installed full-body scanners. They have been extremely beneficial in stopping smuggling, Greene said.

Such scanners are used in the Hamilton, Cuyahoga, Stark and Medina County jails and in federal prisons, Santamas said.

Inmates entering and leaving the Mahoning County jail are now patted down for drugs, weapons or other contraband.

Body-cavity searches, however, can’t legally be performed without a search warrant, which requires probable cause and must be issued by a judge.

The full-body scanning device would establish probable cause if it detected something in a body cavity, Santamas said.

Commissioner Anthony Traficanti commended the jail staff for saving the lives of the two inmates who overdosed Monday.

Two inmates died of drug overdoses within one hour this year in Lake County jail, Santamas said.

Subscribe Today

Sign up for our email newsletter to receive daily news.

Want more? Click here to subscribe to either the Print or Digital Editions.