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Hartselle Enquirer
Special to the Enquirer This image provided by the Morgan County Sheriff's Office shows a knife – hidden in the bra of a woman being booked into the Morgan County Jail – that was detected last week by the full-body scanner.

Morgan jail introduces full-body scanner to combat contraband

By Marian Accardi  

For the Enquirer 

Bones, internal organs and contraband — including a knife hidden in a bra — are all visible since the Morgan County Jail began using a full-body X-ray scanning machine for inmates and officers this past week. 

“This is probably the most aggressive effort we’ve had” in helping to combat an ongoing contraband issue, said Mike Swafford, a spokesman with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office. 

Following a brief scan, the operator of the system can view one screen that shows a full body image, while another screen shows an image of the torso area. 

“It’s an added safety net for inmates and officers,” said Sgt. Britt Parker, administrative sergeant over booking at the jail. 

Swafford said last week, the scanner detected a knife in the bra of a woman who was being booked at the jail on a public intoxication charge.  

Parker said when a municipality made another arrest last week, the subject continued to deny having drugs hidden on him until he arrived at the booking area and saw the scanner. 

During the jail’s booking process, a pat-down search is conducted initially to make sure the person doesn’t have a weapon or other object that could be harmful, Parker said. When the person has been cleared there, handcuffs are removed, and he or she proceeds to the full-body scanner.  

Previously, the person being booked would undergo an unclothed search. 

The full-body scan helps corrections officers detect contraband that wasn’t discovered during the pat-down search, according to Parker, and eliminates the need for an unclothed search. 

“It takes about seven seconds for them to go through the scan, and it takes about seven seconds for the track to move back,” Parker said. The person then moves to a holding cell to complete the booking process. 

An unclothed search isn’t necessary, “unless there’s some indication to look further,” Swafford said. 

“If someone comes in and we see any kind of object that they might have swallowed or have ingested, we have the ability to, half an hour or an hour later, isolate that person, bring them back in here and do another scan,” Parker said. “Then we can actually put the images side by side and see how that (object) has moved through the digestive tract.” 

Corrections officers also undergo random scanning. 

“At the beginning of the shift, we’ll pick three officers at random from each shift, and they’ll come over here, and their supervisor will actually scan those officers to make sure they’re not introducing any contraband into the facility themselves,” Parker said. “Throughout the day, they’ll pull three officers randomly after their lunch breaks and have them scanned as well.” 

The full-body scanner is just one of the recent efforts at Morgan County Jail to cut back on contraband. 

The Morgan County Commission agreed in November to spend $181,000 on the full-body scanner and other equipment, which was paid for with county reserves. 

The other devices are a scanner to check items brought in by instructors and other jail visitors and a metallic reader that can detect cellphones, most knives and “anything metallic that shouldn’t be in our facility,” Parker said. 

As of Feb. 14, no undergarments can be left for inmates; Swafford said those can be purchased at cost through the commissary. 

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