Body scanners installed at Mineral County Detention Center
Sgt. Sharon Rizzi, Mineral County Sheriff's Office Detention Center Supervisor, examines a test image on a body scanner. (Monte Turner/Mineral Independent)
Mineral Independent | November 23, 2022 12:00 AM
Body searches, also known as strip searches, are generally frowned upon when a person is taken into custody by law enforcement.
These are never conducted at the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center, only pat down searches. But even those can be problematic if conducted incorrectly and in too many instances, items are missed and smuggled inside to the correctional facility.
Embezzling weapons, drugs and other contraband has not been a serious issue in the Mineral County Detention Center, but it is becoming more common in rural areas.
“The Montana Association of Counties handles our insurance policies and claims, and they came to us asking if we would be interested in buying a body scanner. Counties have been paying out a lot of money in lawsuits and aside from that, having a piece of equipment that can do a more thorough job than people will be another layer of protection for our detention officers,” shared Sheriff Mike Toth.
“We haven’t had any weapons that made it through our searches, but sunglasses and some jewelry has made it past our pat down searches.”
The conversation with MACO began about six months ago and in that time, Sheriff Toth has taken the request to the county commissioners who were able to use American Rescue Plan Act funds for the purchase that came to $155,400 including the extended warranty to 2027.
“It’s covered through the next administration, so nobody needs to worry about parts or labor. They sent a technician out to set it up and then they sent a trainer out here. The new sheriff-elect was trained on it. All of the jail staff have been trained and it’s up and running. So now, anybody that gets booked and is coming into our jail gets scanned,” Toth explained.
He also said that when they do find anything that is inside the body, a search warrant will be required and then the prisoner will be taken to Mineral Community Hospital of Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula for removal.
“This is much less invasive, and it is also safer for our officers as they have been taking the chance of being cut by a knife or poked by needles the way it’s been conducted to this point.” The prisoner is only scanned on their initial entry but could be called for another scanning if there is suspicion. Undersheriff Wayne Cashman said, “If we suspect that somehow something was slipped to an inmate by a visitor, we just have them rescanned.”
This is just like going through an airport scanner so now males can scan females and vice versa. More than 2,000 jails, prisons and detention centers use x-ray scanners to search inmates before incarceration.