By October 2, 2017 Read More →

Body scanners to be installed in jail system

By COURTNEY HESSLER

The Herald-Dispatch

BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. — The Western Regional Jail in Barboursville will be the first to receive a body scanner before a statewide implementation, which is part of a continuing effort to combat contraband entering jail facilities.

Lawrence Messina, director of communications for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said the Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority has plans to install pass-through body scanners at each of the state’s 10 regional jails, with the first installation planned for Western Regional Jail in the next month or so.

The machines will allow jail officers and staff to better screen inmates during the booking process and in contraband investigations, Messina said.

The scanners appear similar to the metal detective booths used in common places like airports, courthouses and the state Capitol, but they are able to uncover items beyond what a metal detector can, such as plastic, chemical items, nonmetallic weapons, or other related items.

DMAPS Secretary Jeff Sandy said the new device is part of an on-going effort led by Gov. Jim Justice.

“Governor Jim Justice has taken the drug problem seriously, and this initiative speaks highly of that,” he said. “We are working all angles to stop the drugs from coming in. With these devices, you will not be able to smuggle drugs into our facilities in your body.”

Each device costs around $100,000, Messina said. The RJA is purchasing the devices with monies received in a recent settlement with prescription drug distributors and a separate prior settlement with Purdue Pharma.

The RJA has drafted a policy for the devices and will obtain permits needed from the Department of Health and Human Resources due to its use of X-ray technology. The RJA will also provide training for its staff before the scanners become operational, Messina said.

The state has also appointed Jack Luikart as the department’s director of correctional substance abuse control and William K. Marshall III as director of a newly implemented Correctional Investigations Division.

A pay increase for correctional officers was also approved by the state in July.

National experts have said the jail and prison contraband issues are not limited to West Virginia. Western Regional Jail in Barboursville reported at least eight overdoses in a three-week span from April to May. Detox programs are available at all 10 regional jails across the state, and the state also has prison-based substance abuse treatment units for its inmates, a program that expanded on a limited basis into the regional jail system last year.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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