FARGO - The Cass County Jail is hoping to cut the flow of contraband into the facility with the installation of a SecurPASS full-body scanner to screen inmates, the jail administrator said Tuesday, April 17.
A scan takes about 10 seconds and reveals drugs, weapons, syringes, handcuff keys, cellphones and other prohibited items a prisoner might conceal on their person or in a body cavity, Capt. Andrew Frobig said.
"It gives us more of an opportunity to be less invasive with our physical searches, which is a good thing," Frobig said.
Despite inmates being warned they run the risk of heightened criminal charges if they don't give up contraband, "we actually have taken some things off some people," Frobig said.
The SecurPASS scanner was installed two months ago in the jail's intake vestibule in the booking area, Frobig said.
The county began searching for a solution to the flow of contraband into the facility a couple years ago when the work release program was halted due to concerns over contraband, Frobig said.
Frobig said SecurPASS is used at many federal prisons and jails, and helps his staff avoid the need to obtain search warrants for body cavity searches.
It cost about $159,000 for the equipment, installation, delivery and training for staff, Frobig said. Half of the bill was paid with county funds, and the other half from a drug seizures fund, he said.
Jailers record information on each person going through the scanner so exposure to radiation can be monitored. That takes about a minute, Frobig said. With the jail taking in 20 to 40 inmates a day, the time needed to process inmates has remained manageable, he said.
Radiation exposure per scan is minimal - lower than you may get from X-rays at a doctor's office, Frobig said. The exposure is equivalent to flying 16 minutes in a jetliner at 30,000 feet, he said.
The scanner is not used for visitors to the jail, Frobig said.
Frobig said items such as drugs turned over by new inmates may be added to the amount of drugs seized in an arrest or lead to a separate drug charge against someone in custody. But that's far better for an inmate than having a smuggling charge added to what they already face, he said.
No extra officers were hired to run the scanner. All staff have gone through a two-hour training course in the machine's use, Frobig said.
The jail housed about 9,400 inmates in 2017, Frobig said. He estimates the inmate population has gone up 10 percent annually in recent years.