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Warden continues to push for body scanner at Pa. prison

The device, that functions like scanners at airports, would allow for more efficient and less intrusive searches

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Jeff Horvath
The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

SCRANTON, Pa. — Warden Tim Betti continues to advocate buying a body-scanning device for the Lackawanna County Prison.

The device — which functions like body scanners at airports and allows prison guards to scan inmates for weapons and contraband — would allow for more efficient and less intrusive searches, Betti recently told the Lackawanna County Prison Board. He initially raised the issue of the scanner in November and, along with county purchasing Director Joe Wechsler, has been researching the machines for months.

Betti recommended a scanner made by the Chinese company Nuctech. The machine and a five-year warranty would cost about $125,000, he said. Betti also suggested tapping inmate canteen funds placed into a certificate of deposit years ago as a way to possibly pay for the machine. That certificate of deposit was worth about $132,000 as of January, county Controller Gary DiBileo said.

If the scanner is used in the prison’s booking and intake area, Betti is optimistic it would practically replace traditional unclothed searches of inmates. While those searches are a safety precaution, the warden said inmates being searched sometimes become “defensive,” which can lead to other issues.

“This whole body-scanning system is like an X-ray, so you’d be able to see the keys in my pocket if I was to remain fully clothed and go through it,” Betti said. “It takes 10 seconds. In order to conduct a proper unclothed search, it’s going to take probably two (or) three minutes, if not longer. ... So, this is quicker. It’s more efficient. It’s less intrusive. There’s a lot of benefits to it.”

The board asked Betti to look into whether the $125,000 price of the machine and warranty includes the cost of future software upgrades that might be required.

The board generally tries to use canteen funds, which are earned on commissary sales at the jail, on things that benefit inmates. The body scanner benefits inmates by sparing them the unclothed search, DiBileo said.


©2019 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)