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How one Oregon jail uses X-ray screening to keep out contraband drugs

Looking for a better way to catch contraband, this Oregon sheriff led the charge to make X-ray screening a common practice in the state’s county jails


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By Rachel Zoch for CorrectionsOne BrandFocus

Josephine County in far southwest Oregon covers roughly 1,650 square miles and is home to about 87,500 people. The county jail, built in 2000, is located in the county seat, Grants Pass, which is about 30 miles north of the California border.

The B-SCAN X-ray body scanner has helped COs find concealed drugs and weapons to keep them out of the county jail, says Sheriff Dave Daniel of Josephine County, Oregon. (images courtesy of Josephine County)
The B-SCAN X-ray body scanner has helped COs find concealed drugs and weapons to keep them out of the county jail, says Sheriff Dave Daniel of Josephine County, Oregon. (images courtesy of Josephine County)

Sheriff Dave Daniel, a longtime Oregon peace officer, was elected to the post in November 2014 and sworn in on January 5, 2015.

Daniel inherited a severely understaffed department and has been working to boost the number of deputies. He estimates that the department currently makes about 5,000 arrests each year but expects that number to rise as the number of deputies increases the county’s ability to patrol the area, investigate crimes and arrest and incarcerate suspects.

Problem: How to catch contraband at the door

But the more individuals Josephine County deputies arrest, the more contraband in the county jail is a problem, particularly drugs.

“Drugs are a problem in any facility,” said Daniel, “and I was looking for a way to better address that problem.”

He began looking for a solution in 2017 and came across the B-SCAN by Smiths Detection, a transmission X-ray body scanner used by facilities across the country to detect concealed contraband.

Daniel did some research and found that although the technology has been shown to be an effective tool for catching contraband, only one county in the state was using a body scanner. Through the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association, he was able to get nine other counties to join in a bid on a group purchase of body scanners by the end of that year.

They acquired the B-SCAN machines through Command Sourcing, which was already a known and trusted vendor of OSSA.

“Josephine County led the charge to bring the technology to the state,” said Daniel, “and we saved a significant amount of money on each one by buying as a group.”

Solution: X-ray scanning provides more thorough searches, deters drug smuggling

Using a body scanner can reduce the need for time-consuming manual searches, and the X-ray images take much of the guesswork out of the intake screening process. The B-SCAN machines are easy to use and easily integrated into existing checkpoints.

Daniel sent several of his deputies to train in another county, and they came back and trained their peers. Using the scanner is simple, he says, and fits seamlessly into their existing procedures. Individuals go through intake, surrender their belongings, change into a jail uniform, and then the X-ray is one of the final steps.

“We really didn’t change much. It’s just an added step in the screening process,” he said. “We did have to get a waiver to use it through the Oregon Health Authority because it’s an X-ray machine, but that was just paperwork.”

Results: Added screening deters contraband smuggling

The safety and security of the inmates and staff is paramount, and keeping drugs out of the jail is a critical part of maintaining order. Adding the body scanner has been a small change in procedure that yielded significant results, says Daniel, and the amount of drugs that make it into the jail has decreased greatly.

“We have found knives, heroin, meth – the scanner has been a very good addition,” he said. “We find it, whether it’s in their mouth or the other end. The tool is part of the job for the staff, just like any other. It’s just an extra measure.”

Arrestees know they will be screened, and they have the chance to surrender any illicit items before entering the scanner.

“We have an amnesty box where they can voluntarily forfeit anything they might have – with no charges,” said Daniel. “But if they don’t heed the warning before the X-ray, that’s a different story.”

He says more counties across the state have added the scanners to their facilities since that initial group purchase as word spreads of its efficacy.

“Everybody knows the tool has been successful,” he said.

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