County Jail installing full-body scanner

LISBON — A full-body scanner is on its way to the Columbiana County Jail to help eliminate the flow of drugs and other contraband being smuggled into the facility.

“It can legitimately reduce your drug intake in jail to zero,” said county Sheriff Ray Stone after being told $250,000 had been included in the state capital budget to purchase a full-body scanner.

Stone said searching inmate body cavities has become almost legally impossible without a search warrant. Instead, Stone said they require inmates to squat and cough in the hopes that will eject whatever contraband is hidden in a body cavity.

If that does not occur, and the inmates is suspected of trying to smuggle contraband into the jail, they are placed in what is called “dry cell,” which is a cell with a toilet where the water can be turned off to prevent it from being flushed by the inmate. Stone said inmates are placed in a dry cell until they go to the bathroom and pass the contraband.

“We usually catch it in 24 hours,” Stone said.

Often, inmates become ill if they cannot discharge the contraband from their body cavity, resulting in a trip to the hospital, where the drugs are found and resulting in charges being filed. Stone has said before that people would be surprised by what inmates are able to secret away in their body cavities, items such as small packets of drugs, heroin-filled syringes, cigarette lighters and spoons used to cook the drugs.

Smuggled heroin is suspected of causing three inmates to overdose within seconds of each other in October 2016.

The airport-style X-ray machine to be installed in the jail’s booking area is expected to all but eliminate the contraband smuggling problem. Stone said counties that have these scanner systems report drug smuggling has been reduced by 99 percent.

State Rep. Tim Ginter, R-Salem, said he requested the $250,000 for the scanner be included in the capital budget after being asked to do so by Stone and county commissioners. He had also been asked to seek money to upgrade the jail’s security camera system and for repairs to the courthouse dome, but those requests were denied.

Ginter was glad he was able to secure funding for the scanner. “In light of the fact people are smuggling not just drugs but weapons (into jails), this will make it safer for other inmates and staff,” he said.

The scanner cost $212,000. “They’re free to do what they will with that extra money,” Ginter said.

Ginter also reported he was able to get $375,000 inserted into the capital budget for improvements to the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center’s firefighter training program. He said this was done at the request of county residents John Zehentbauer and Jim Armeni, both of whom work at the CTC.

The live-fire training facility serves firefighters from Mahoning Valley. “Our fire chiefs are pretty excited about having this training facility, which is a regional training facility available to Columbiana County firefighters,” Ginter said.

The capital budget also includes $650,000 to replace the roof on Purinton Hall at the Kent State University East Liverpool campus and $400,000 to replace the roof at the KSU Salem campus.

Ginter said the state legislature is expected to approve the capital budget by the end of the month.