Body scanner eliminates most strip searches

Mesa County commissioners approved Monday the purchase and installation of a full-body security scanner for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.

The $129,750 scanner will be used in the booking area at the Mesa County Jail.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said the scanner will be used on all incoming jail inmates to detect concealed drugs, weapons, sharp objects and contraband.

Benjamin said the addition of the scanner will help jail staff eliminate the need for most strip searches.

Previously, an employee may have had to leave other duties to perform a strip search on someone of the same gender, or some inmates may have been upset that only certain people, including those in jail for a felony drug arrest, were subject to a strip search.

“A strip search is not pleasant for inmates or for staff,” Benjamin said. “This creates equality — everyone gets scanned.”

The scanner creates images that show a body outline, bones and some organs but do not show flesh details. The images will detect concealed drugs, weapons, makeup, medication, sharp objects and contraband, according to Benjamin.

Money for the scanner comes from about $300,000 left over after a recent remodeling of the jail’s booking area, Benjamin said. It will cost closer to $195,000 to purchase the scanner and pay for shipping, installation, warranty and a maintenance plan, she estimated.

The remaining money will go back to a capital fund.

Benjamin said she expects the scanner to arrive in about eight weeks. She said it may be two to three months before the machine is installed and operational.


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