Ohio county jail to use X-ray on inmates

The Sheriff’s Office has a long-term problem of illegal substances, such as drugs, coming into the jail


Eileen McClory
Record-Courier, Kent, Ohio

PORTAGE COUNTY, Ohio — Inmates headed into the Portage County jail may face an additional step when they enter: going through an X-ray machine.

No, it's not to look at bones. It's to check if there is anything illegal hidden in a body cavity.

The Sheriff's Office has a long-term problem of illegal substances, such as drugs, coming into the jail, Portage County Sheriff David Doak said.

"Drugs are a problem in jails everywhere," Doak said.

Between Jan. 1 and April 1, 2019, six people were indicted for illegally conveying items into a detention facility, according to an analysis of court records. The drugs brought in included marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl.

They can be brought in for personal use, to be sold, or a combination of both, Doak said.

The jail already has Ricky, a drug-sniffing K-9 rescued from a kill shelter in Texas, who works with his handler, corrections officer Derek McCoy, to sniff out drugs on inmates and contraband within their cells.

Doak said Ricky will continue to be used, but pointed out that McCoy and Ricky can only be there during one shift. The X-ray machine can be used during any shift to search inmates.

In December, a jail nurse was exposed to fentanyl after an inmate brought in the drug. The nurse and the inmate were both taken to the hospital.

After that incident, Doak said the office expedited the purchase of the machine, which was supposed to be added to the new jail currently being built.

The X-ray machine cost $128,000, Doak said, and came out of the Portage County Sheriff's Office taxpayer fund.

The machine isn't always easy to use, Doak added. It takes the corrections officers some getting used to reading the X-rays and seeing the markings that could be drugs.

Corrections Officer Silas Copeland showed a reporter and a photographer how the machine worked, though the newspaper could not take any photo or video of it for privacy reasons. An inmate stands on a platform, looks straight up, and the machine pulls the inmate back and forth through the scanner on the platform. The inmate is upright the whole time.

Copeland said he had found the machine useful so far. He showed reporters how to manipulate an image produced from the X-ray machine so that it was lighter or darker and better showed anything that might be in someone's body.

Inmates aren't given radiation jackets. Doak said the machine is supposed to have less radiation coming off it than a banana.

Corrections officers have been given training on the machine, but Doak said there is still some to do.

"It will take some getting used to," he said of the machine.

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©2019 Record-Courier, Kent, Ohio

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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