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County commissioners sign off on full-body scanner for jail


ELYRIA — The Lorain County commissioners Wednesday approved a deal to buy a full-body scanner for Lorain County Jail.

Jail Administrator Andy Laubenthal said the cost of the machine will be $118,750, which will come out of a technology grant from Inmate Calling Solutions, the company that took over the facility’s phone and other inmate communications systems this year. The machine itself is being purchased from OD Security North America.

The county had up to $200,000 to spend on the machine, although Laubenthal said the extra money will go toward renovating the space where the machine will be housed.

Jail officials have long sought to obtain a full-body scanner, which are used by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration at some airports, to help combat the flow of contraband into the facility.

Over the years, Laubenthal has said, inmates have smuggled in items including drugs and weapons inside their body cavities. Finding some of those items can be difficult through the metal detectors and pat downs that corrections officers now use when searching newly arrived inmates.

For instance, he said items including pins in a person and other metal items will show up clearly in the body scanner image.

He said people have been caught bringing in drugs when they are coming to serve as little as three days of jail time.

Since the outbreak of the opioid epidemic, the problem has grown worse. The jail has seen several overdoses in recent years, including the fatal overdose of inmate Joseph Boden in March 2016.

Boden died after overdosing on the powerful painkiller fentanyl while serving a 90-day jail sentence on theft and contempt-of-court charges.

“It remains a concern especially with the high level of opiate addiction that remains prevalent in the county,” Laubenthal said.

But he also cautioned that even with the best security contraband can sometimes slip through.

“This is not a guarantee — it’s an additional lawyer,” Laubenthal told the commissioners before they voted to buy the machine.

The body scanner should be installed and online within the next few months, he said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.

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