Lancaster County Prison considering x-ray body scanners to combat drug smuggling

LANCASTER, Pa. --- Over the last year, the Lancaster County Prison has made several changes to combat drug smuggling.

Those include non-contact visitation, sending drug K9s to district judge offices, and requiring greeting cards be sent through a private vendor.

Despite all these changes, Warden Cheryl Steberger said the problem persists.

“Working daily on that…It’s a struggle, it’s a challenge,” said Steberger.

Common drugs found include various opioids and recently, meth.

The next step: Steberger said they are looking into purchasing an x-ray body scanner for inmates coming through the commitment area, which is where they go when entering and leaving the prison.

Steberger said the commitment area of the prison is where the majority of drugs are found.

Robert Wolfe, deputy warden of operations, said the current scanner at the prison can only detect metal.

He said an x-ray scanner can spot anything hidden within someone's body, whether that's ceramics or drugs in unsavory places.

“They swallow it, we don’t know that they swallowed anything. [An x-ray scanner] will show us that. Right now, if it’s a balloon with drugs or something, [the current scanner] is not going to find it. [An x-ray scanner] will when we get it in," said Wolfe.

He said an x-ray scanner costs between $112,000-$165,000.

Wolfe said they are still working on decisions: which vendor or company they’ll go with?Whether to lease a machine or straight purchase the scanner?

He said a number of factors affect that decision, including which scanners can fit inside the older structure?

“We’re going to look at what the best is as far as the imaging and what we need and then as far as space, afterwards," said Wolfe.

Steberger said she wants the x-ray scanner for more than the obvious reason of spotting drugs coming in.

She said they hope it can be a deterrent against someone planning on bringing drugs with them, in the first place.

“Whatever the latest technology is, whatever’s out there. The new ideas that come up on the market, we network with facilities, find out what’s working for them, what’s not working. We’re all working together to combat this issue here,” said Steberger.

Wolfe said if they can come to a decision on a body scanner by the end of the November, they can have the system in place by January.

Another factor Steberger said they’re working out is what to do when drugs are found by the scanner?

She said the Lancaster County Prison does not do body cavity searches so they’re working on a plan to “pass” the drugs.

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