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Detention Center looks for new search tools

The Harrodsburg Herald of Harrodsburg, Kentucky

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Jail Struggles With Smuggled Contraband From New and Returning Prisoners

One of the biggest problems in jails is smuggling. Every time prisoners enter Boyle County Detention Center (BCDC), it creates issues for the staff, said Boyle County Jailer Barry Harmon, whether they are new detainees or convicts returning from work release.

"Believe it or not, police officers do not search very well," Harmon said at last week's meeting of Mercer-Boyle County Joint Jail Committee.

He said guards often find weapons on prisoners during processing, from pocket knives to hand guns. But it's what they don't find that can really cause problems.

Earlier this year, a female prisoner from Mercer County smuggled in drugs and then overdosed on them. By the time guards found her, she had already turned blue. While the inmate recovered, she needed to be rushed to Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center for treatment.

Harmon said prisoners returning from work release account for a large part of the drugs going into the jail.

To help solve the smuggling problem, the jailer wants to purchase a Soter RS full body scanning system. He said the system would be less intrusive than a strip search. The low-radiation system — Harmon said inmates would be exposed to more radiation standing in the sun for 40 minutes than during the 10 seconds they spent inside the scanner — can detect metal and plastic as well as organic and inorganic materials.

"Anything keistered, this is going to show it," he said.

While Harmon said the manufacturer is American, the scanner was originally developed to scan diamond miners in South Africa.

He said the device would cost $118,000. Harmon proposed using the jail's canteen fund to finance the purchase. "It won't jeopardize us financially," he said.

Chairman Harold McKinney, the Boyle County Judge-Executive, asked who was going to read the scans.

Harmon said his staff would have to be trained and certified to use the equipment. "It meets standards for not violating privacy," he said.

Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean asked where they could put the scanner. Space is at a premium at the overcrowded jail. Harmon said there was room in juvenile booking area.

"It will fit there perfectly," he said.

The next objective was the possibility of harming pregnant inmates, especially inmates who did not know they were pregnant at the time of their arrest.

Harmon told the committee that he would get medical approval for the device. The idea was tabled until the next meeting.

However, the jail staff have another tool at their disposal in their efforts to stop contraband. Harmon said jail employees will attend a two hour training session to use their new Cell Sense portable detector on Tuesday, Sept. 29. Cell Sense scans for hidden contraband like blades and cell phones.

"We're looking forward to seeing what this device does," Harmon said.

In other action, the jail committee:

Learned the new video arraignment system was working, despite issues with feedback in the audio feed. Harmon said the feedback was caused by a plexiglass plate placed over the microphone, but that a technician had drilled holes into the plate, eliminating the problem.

Learned there had been no movement on the possible leasing agreement with the Red Cross for an intensive outpatient treatment center.

"I need this program in place," Dean said. Both Boyle and Mercer counties are struggling with too many prisoners and too few beds. There are 140 beds set aside for the 200 inmates from both counties. Another 80 beds go to state prisoners, and are paid for by the commonwealth.

"That's were the real issue is," Harmon said.

Dean and McKinney said they would provide the Red Cross with a red line copy of the lease agreement and attempt to speed things along.

McKinney noted that he'd received a bill from Ephraim McDowell for $250 that was over five years old. Even though the statute of limitations had expired, McKinney said Boyle County went ahead and paid it, only then to receive another old bill for $4,108.

While Boyle County Treasure Mary Conley said the bill had been negotiated down to $2,000, McKinley said they needed more timely billing from McDowell.

"How many more bills are out there?" he asked.

The bill was so old no one was certain the patient was an inmate at the time of treatment. The matter was tabled until they found more information.

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Original Publication Date: September 24, 2015

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