Lackawanna County Prison eyes new technology to stop contraband

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Contraband is common among prisons. Each day, officials do swift work to stop it from entering its cells.

But now Lackawanna County Prison is looking to expand its monitoring process. Lackawanna County Prison officials are looking to get a machine that will detect drugs and other contraband already inside the prison or coming in secretly in a specific piece of mail.

Drugs are one of the most common contraband to enter prisons. At the Lackawanna County Prison, over the years, inmate mail has been laced with drugs.

“Many different ways they were trying to get it in through the mail. So, we changed our mail policy to now scan it to the computer tablets,” said Deputy Warden of Security William Shanley.

Shanley says inmates no longer receive their physical mail. Except, legal mail from a lawyer’s office which has now become a loophole.

“Either soaked with drugs, have drugs sometimes merged in between two pieces of paper that are glued together and the naked eye will not pick that up,” Shanley explained.

He says it’s very difficult to detect. Legal paperwork is opened and inspected by prison staff in front of the inmate. In making sure no drugs slip by in the future, the prison’s intelligence captain is looking at a trace-detection machine.

“That would enable us to swab the particulates and by doing that, it would tell us whether there’s contraband present or any type of narcotic or explosive,” said Tim Walsh.

He says the machine will be used beyond mail. If they suspect one of its 585 in-house inmates of using drugs or having contraband, they can scan hands, clothing and more. It’s in an effort to keep everyone safe.

“It’s going to reduce the chances of somebody, you know, coming in that’s drug addicted to you know relapse and overall its going to improve the inmate and staff safety. That’s kind of our main goal,” Walsh added.

The trace-detection machine is about the size of a desk printer. The timeline as to when the prison will get it is unknown. County commissioners will have to approve the more than $20,000 tool.

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