Jail scanner will make strip searches unnecessary

Strip searches will be a thing of the past once Island County Jail gets a new piece of equipment.

Strip searches will be a thing of the past once the Island County Jail gets a fancy new piece of equipment.

The jail received a $194,000 grant from the state Department of Commerce to purchase an Intercept body scanner, which is made by the company Tek-84. The low-dose scanner is similar to what the TSA uses at airports, but with much higher resolution.

The Island County jail is the 11th and smallest jail in the state to order one of the high-tech scanners.

Joe Briones, the jail chief, said the technology will increase both the privacy and safety of people in the jail. He said people who come into the jail hiding narcotics on or in their bodies have overdosed in holding cells; fortunately, watchful jailers have been able to save them with Narcan.

Under jail policy, incoming inmates may be strip searched if there’s a reason to believe they have drugs on them. Briones said it’s not a pleasant experience for either staff or inmates, but it’s vital to keep drugs, weapons or other objects like lighters out of the jail.

Briones said body cavity searches are only allowed with a court order. Searches are considered a medical procedure which can only be done by medical professionals.

The new scanner, however, will make embarrassing and invasive searches unnecessary. It will allow jailers to see if clothed people are hiding objects. Scans on the Tek-84 website show things as small as teeth fillings.

“The subject simply stands on the Intercept stationary platform for a quick 3.8-second scan,” according to the Tek-84 website. “Instantly, a detailed x‐ray image appears on the high‐resolution monitor, showing objects under the clothing and within body cavities.”

The scanner is regulated by the FDA. Federal safety standards allow each person to be screened up to 1,000 times per year on the lowest setting, allowing daily use, according to the company.

Briones said the jail can also use the scanner on objects such as mattresses.