Starting next week, Cowlitz County Jail will become the first corrections facility in the state of Washington to use body scanners on inmates entering the facility.
The machines will be used to prevent smuggling of contraband, like drugs or weapons.
Capt. Chris Moses said the new scanner takes about seven seconds to scan an inmate and will be faster and more thorough than traditional searches.
“Inmates get pretty creative on how they bring in contraband,” Moses said. “They’re bringing it in body cavities and things that you’re not going to find in a pat down or strip search.”
The new scanner cost just less than $240,000 and was paid for with money from a sales tax approved by the county in 2012 that pays for mental health services.
Moses said he spent time reaching out to advocacy groups in the state and consulted with legal counsel before making the decision to purchase the scanner.
“We wanted to make sure there were no concerns on their end,” said Moses.
The new scanner will be used by all inmates going in or out of the jail, with some exceptions.
Moses said inmates who are pregnant will not go through the scanner because of precautionary health concerns.
“We were told it’s safe,” Moses said. He added that the radiation levels from the scanner are 500 times lower than a hospital chest X-ray.
While the body scanner is new to Washington state, similar machines can be found in jails in San Diego, California, Salt Lake City and Baltimore.