CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Officials at the Al Cannon Detention Center are hoping the use of a new X-Ray scanner will keep drugs from getting behind bars.
We jumped on the new scanner and put it to the test to see if fake contraband could be smuggled into the jail, but the scanner caught the contraband mint strategically hidden in a pocket.
Officials hope the new and improved technology will discourage inmates from smuggling in dangerous contraband.
“The last thing you want to deal with is if you have an inmate passed out in a cell because they overdosed on whatever drug they are on,” says Sergeant Paula Webb, an Intake Supervisor at the Al Cannon Detention Center.
Overdoses from April through the end of the year in 2021 tripled from 4 to 14 compared to 2020. And while every inmate is thoroughly checked when booked in, strip and pat searches aren’t always perfect.
“That’s how most of the contraband will come into the facility, is those unforeseen strip searches where we don’t find anything,” says Webb.
The new X-Ray scanner is equipped to reveal drugs potentially ingested in balloons or bags or concealed inside the body. Officials say the quick scan is expected to catch any drugs or contraband inmates attempt to sneak in.
“We are able to detect a lot more things by using this plus we also will take some liability off of us if somebody has ingested something,” says Webb.
The scanner uses low amounts of radiation, scans from left to right, and produces images in various levels of contrast. Webb says it improves safety for her deputies.
The greatest risk remains with inmates but Webb says deputies run the risk of exposure to deadly drugs like Fentanyl.
“Dealing with the drugs and the contraband and weapons and all that kind of stuff that would be in here and all the different personalities they have to deal with,” says Webb.
As the number of overdoses has increased at the Al Cannon Detention Center, the need for Narcan has grown. And while the facility has an ample supply, stocking up on weapons like the scanner and Narcan is an important step in fighting the drugs.
“We have Narcan on hand for us to utilize if an officer is exposed,” says Webb.
As the number of overdoses hopefully decreases, officials and staff will be able to direct their care to other areas.
“We’ve had patients that have walked into the door, been in our intake area for less than an hour and we have to go in and use the Narcan,” says Mamie Cook-Benjamin, a Health Service Provider through Wellpath at the facility.
Safety is at the forefront for officials at the Al Cannon Detention Center all while keeping drugs from getting picked up and put behind bars.
“I mean it’s pretty much the same all of the time, that somebody’s going to try to come through the door with something on them,” says Webb. “We just have to be diligent and find it.”
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported a 59% increase in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020 in the state and predicted the trend to continue for 2021. Fentanyl was among the main contributors to overdose deaths.