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Okla. sheriff to purchase body scanner to detect contraband

$173K purchase for Pittsburg County jail to be partially funded with American Rescue Plan Act funds

PittsburgCountySheriffChrisMorris .jpg

Sheriff Morris expects the body scanner to be more effective at spotting different types of contraband than a metal detector.

Pittsburg County Sheriff

By James Beaty
McAlester News-Capital, Okla.

MCALESTER, Okla. — It’s about to get tougher to smuggle contraband inside the Pittsburg County Justice Center.

Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris plans to purchase a body scanner through the Omnia Partners Purchasing Cooperative, to be partially funded with American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Pittsburg County commissioners have approved the purchase of the equipment for $173,549.98 and agreed to help with a portion of the costs.

Download now: How to buy body scanners

Also known as the Pittsburg County Jail, the Justice Center houses county inmates, prisoners arrested by the city of McAlester, and holds prisoners for small towns in Pittsburg County, along with state, federal and tribal prisoners.

While some inmates remain jailed most of the day, others work as trusty inmates — not only inside the jail, but outside as well.

On a given day, county jail trusties do everything from pick up trash along highways and county roads, to handle odd jobs at the Southeast Expo Center. County jail trusties also perform other outside jobs from time-to-time.

With some inmates going in and out of the jail on a daily basis, the potential exists for attempts to smuggle contraband inside the county jail.

At other times, someone who’s just been arrested may try to smuggle contraband into the jail, despite law enforcement’s best efforts.

Morris plans to purchase a body scanner for the Pittsburg County Justice Center to help eliminate those avenues.

It will be much more than a simple metal detector, Morris said of the new equipment. Morris said the scanner will take X-rays, since not all contraband — such as drugs, for example — has metallic qualities.

“It’s a full-body scan,” Morris said of the how the new equipment will work.

Because the machine is using X-rays, there is a limit on how many times an individual can be X-rayed with the device in a year’s time.

“One person can only have 160 scans a year,” Morris said.

He expects the device to be much more effective at spotting different types of contraband than a metal detector. A metal detector would be expected to detect a knife or gun, but not a bag containing drugs, for example.

That would include drugs that an inmate might swallow in a dangerous attempt to either smuggle drugs inside the jail, or in the case of a person just arrested, swallow in an attempt to get rid of the drugs before they are booked into the jail.

“If you swallowed a bag of meth, it will show something,” Morris said of the scanner’s capabilities.

If the machine shows that someone swallowed a substance, the inmate or person being arrested would be rushed to the hospital, said Morris.

“We don’t want to take a chance on it bursting in somebody’s stomach,” he said.

In addition to purchasing the new equipment, Morris is also applying for a $35,000 federal grant for overtime pay to place more deputies into high-crime areas.

Although the money is not yet granted, Morris is confident it will be approved.

It’s been approved every time he’s applied for it ever since he’s been sheriff, he said.

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