Lancaster County Prison introduces new body scanners

LANCASTER, Pa. --- Any inmate entering general population at the Lancaster County Prison has to now go through a body scanner.

On Wednesday, prison and county officials introduced the new machine, located at the intake section of the prison.

The county is leasing the body scanner for $140,000 over seven years ($20,000 per year).

The machines provide a full-body image of the inmate. It also provides seven types of image effects to help prison staff narrow down an anomaly.

Warden Cheryl Steberger said this is a last measure in their efforts to prevent contraband, such as drugs, weapons, and cell phones, from getting within the prison walls.

“We’re not giving up. We’ll continue whatever other technology is out there on the market, we’ll continue to introduce to our facility," said Steberger.

The Lancaster County Prison has implemented non-contact visitation, K-9 searches, and strict mail policies. Yet, Steberger said contraband is still a problem they face daily.

The images the body scanners provide can show hiding spots a strip-search cannot, for example if an inmate swallows contraband.

Prison staff are trained to spot images and shapes that are not natural to the human body, such as circular or squared items.

Lancaster County Commissioner Dennis Stuckey said he believes it's a good long-term investment towards helping public safety during the on-going opioid epidemic.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can with their money to try and stem this drug trade, drug business, anybody bringing anything into the prison they’re not supposed to be bringing in," said Stuckey.

Steberger said the device gives off a low dose of radiation that, she says, is not harmful.

Prison officials say the device can read radiation levels and can automatically turn off if an inmate exceeds a year-worth of radiation.

As part of an industry standard and not a health hazard, Steberger says pregnant women, minors and people in wheelchairs are not scanned.

Steberger said the devices are not foolproof and are "only as good as the person using it."

She said they believe it provides a "security blanket" in their fight to combat illegal items from getting inside.

“That’s why we continue to do pat searches whenever inmates enter into housing units. Strip-searches at any given time throughout the day. It’s not just the machine we’re counting on to prevent contraband from coming in, we have many added features," said Steberger.

Officials say the body scanners went live in the prison last Thursday.

In that time span, they've spotted suspicious images on inmates but have no confiscated any contraband off an inmate using the machines, at this point.

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