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 June 11th, 2012  
St. Lucie County Sheriff Mascara unveils high-tech virtual imaging body scanner in use at the county jail
The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office has obtained a virtual imaging body scanner, thanks to a federal Department of Justice grant, according to Sheriff Ken J. Mascara.

The scanner's first day of use was May 30. Deputies use the scanner on all detainees brought to the jail following arrest and all jail detainees who leave and return to the jail.

"We have deployed the SecurPass scanner to deal with an ongoing issue all jails are experiencing," Sheriff Mascara said. "New arrestees and re-admits from the courts have been hiding items of contraband within body cavities. Before deploying the SecurPass scanner, a subject suspected of holding contraband had to be transferred, in our custody, to a hospital for an internal x-ray to locate the contraband. Sadly, with the current 'pill epidemic' in Florida, attempts to smuggle contraband into jails are widespread here and elsewhere."

The scanner does not invade anyone's privacy. It does not use surface rendering image technology or software, so no soft tissue images are created. The scanner "sees" inside a person, not the person's flesh or physical features.

The scanner cost $190,000 and came from Virtual Imaging, Inc., a Canon U.S.A. company. The company website is viertualimaging-fl.com.

A SecurPass scan takes less than eight seconds.

Someone being scanned does not have to remove shoes, belt, jewelry or any outer apparel during the scan.

It would take 400 chest X-rays to equal one SecurPass scan, so the scan is perfectly safe.

The St. Lucie County jail is the fourth county jail in the State of Florida to deploy the SecurPass scanner. The other three are the jails in Lee, Pinellas, Palm Beach and Pasco counties.

One U.S. prison in Florida uses the SecurPass scanner: the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, in Coleman, Florida, which is 54 miles northwest of Orlando in Sumter County.  The Federal Bureau of Prisons of the U.S. Department of Justice operates the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex.

On May 30, the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office began using a new scanner to prevent offenders from smuggling drugs, weapons and other banned items into the jail. People are putting prescription narcotics in their body cavities, making the narcotics difficult to locate with a traditional strip search.

In Florida, body cavity searches require a court order, so the Sheriff's Office was interested in a safe, rapid, legal alternative.

The RadPro SecurPASS, manufactured by Canon U.S.A. Inc., uses transmission imaging to conduct a virtual body scan. The subject stands on an automated platform that moves him or her through the machine, which scans the body with a half-mm-thick radiation beam.

As the beam passes through the detainee's body, and the system measures how much density is left in the beam. The information is then processed and relayed to a computer that reconstructs the image. Deputies operating the system study the rendering of the detainee to see if anything looks out of place.

Deputies can look straight through the detainee's body, so if there's something there that normally wouldn't be in or on your body , it jumps out at you."

The system shows deputies something as tiny as a small filling in someone's tooth. If a deputy sees something that looks suspicious, the detainee is searched to determine what the object is.

Although the system scans a person's entire body inside and out, it doesn't show soft tissue detail as the Transportation Security Administration's scanners at airports do. So detainees' privacy is protected because facial features aren't shown.

About 40 people are booked into the St. Lucie jail every day. After detainees arrive at the jail, they're processed and scanned. Detainees also are scanned after making contact with the public — for example, after a doctor's appointment, work duty or meeting with an attorney.

The subject to be scanned does not have to disrobe.

The scanner is also used at the St. Lucie County jail to scan detainees' mattresses, linens, shoes and other items to look for hidden contraband. This has improved the jail's search capabilities and also saves money by saving time. Mattresses with holes were once discarded, but are now saved and scanned to make sure that nothing is stashed in them.

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