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Meth guns: New technology for correctional settings

CDEX, Inc. of Tucson, Ariz. develops and markets innovative chemical detection technologies with a vision for saving lives and assisting criminal justice professionals


Image CDEX Inc.

By Robert Hood

Methamphetamine (meth) abuse is highly addictive, toxic, a risk factor for violence, and very costly. The national estimate of the economic cost of meth in the United States exceeds 23 billion a year.

Crime and criminal justice costs account for a significant share of economic costs. These costs include the burden of processing and incarcerating drug offenders.

Over 26 million users create significant concern for law enforcement and eventually correctional officials. A majority of state and federal inmates were abusing or dependent on drugs (to include meth) in the year before their admission to prison. Prior meth use continues to alarm those responsible for the care and custody of inmate populations.

The production of meth requires toxic chemicals that can result in fire, explosions, and other negative events. It is dangerous for investigative staff to handle, and hard to detect in small quantities. Meth is often adulterated “cut” using common food supplements found in grocery and nutrition stores. Technology now exists to detect methamphetamine in very small concentrations.

CDEX, Inc. of Tucson, Ariz., develops and markets innovative chemical detection technologies with a vision for saving lives and assisting criminal justice professionals. With CDEX’s ID2 Meth Scanner, staff can detect and verify the presence of meth down to trace quantities by either pointing and shooting the gun at the expected area, or by mining the surface of the area with acceptable protocols dictated by the agencies.

Trace amounts at the nanogram range are invisible to the naked eye, but create serious health concerns for non-meth users having contact with offenders.

Jeff Brumfield, CEO of CDEX Inc. said though the device originally came out in 2004-2005, it was recently relaunched this year and is better than ever.

“In the past the gun was picking up too many false positives so now all the false positives have been eliminated,” he said. “Now, correctional officers can be sure that as prisoners and contraband come into their facility, they can test for minute quantities of methamphetamine.”

The device has been sold to home inspectors, housing authorities and the Bureau of Indian affairs and it’s been yet to be sold in a correctional facility, but Brumfield said it would be an ideal fit inside a facility.

“If you suspect a garment has been soaked with the drug, all you have to do is point the gun at it and it will detect trace amounts,” he said.

The ID2 Meth Scanner is a hand-held, battery-operated device able to detect meth on skin, clothing, plastics, wood, metals and masonry. It is only 8" in length and weighs 1.5 pounds with a battery life of 8 hours.

Tests on suspected meth can be accomplished without opening suspected baggies which are often used to store the illegal drug. The scanner can penetrate the thickness of baggies for confirmation, as well as wax paper.

“Officers won’t have to handle the material and will limit their exposure to the drug. Over time, less exposure to meth, which can be absorbed through the pores, can be a huge health benefit over time,” Brumfield said.

Although the unit price is around $6,000, agencies may consider shared-use programs to reduce individual cost.

In law enforcement the scanners are used to deter drug abuse while protecting those involved with criminal investigations. Once convicted and incarcerated, professionals can monitor correctional settings with this technology to detect continued use. Once an offender is involved with re-entry programs, the device can be used to monitor compliance while in the community.

CDEX develops and markets chemical detection technologies for both medication safety and individual and property security.

Bob Hood has over 45 years of correctional experience at the local, state and federal levels. He retired from the United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, as warden of America’s most secure prison — the United States “Supermax” in Florence, Colorado.

In his role as warden, he communicated daily with inmates such as Terry Nichols, the Oklahoma City bomber; Richard Reid, the Al-Qaeda “shoe bomber”; Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, along with several WTC bombing participants, Embassy bombing participants, and FBI Spy Robert Hanssen. He has significant experience in managing disruptive inmates and developing emergency plans for correctional facilities.

Security Magazine identified Mr. Hood as one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People in the Security Industry,” and CBS aired a “60 Minutes” special on his ability to effectively manage the most secured prison in America.

Click here to see the “60 Minutes” special interview of Warden Bob Hood.