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Full-body scanners finally come to N.H.’s prisons

  • Full-body scanners have been installed at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin and the women's prison in Concord. Scanners will be installed at other facilities, including the men's prison in Concord, in the weeks ahead. —Courtesy

  • Full-body scanners have been installed at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin and the women’s prison in Concord. Scanners will be installed at other facilities, including the men’s prison in Concord, in the weeks ahead. Courtesy



Monitor staff
Thursday, July 26, 2018

Full-body scanners are now being installed in New Hampshire’s prisons more than two years after lawmakers approved funding for the devices, which are aimed at curbing illicit drug use behind prison walls.

The state’s Department of Corrections announced Wednesday that full-body scanners have been installed at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin and the New Hampshire Correctional Facility for Women in Concord. The devices will be in place at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men in Concord by the end of the summer.

“The Department is currently finalizing protocols and policies on scanner use and is in the process of training staff who will administer the scan,” spokesman Jeff Lyons said in a statement.

Former Democratic governor Maggie Hassan signed a bill in 2016 approving $2 million for the body scanners and to create grant opportunities for counties that wanted to install the scanners at local jails.

But after the bill took effect, officials made changes to the security screening procedures so that not everyone entering the state’s three prisons would be required to walk through the scanners.

Senate Bill 133, signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in 2017, provides greater specificity in who should be scanned by focusing on individuals entering the secure perimeter of a facility.

The X-ray technology allows correctional officers to detect contraband that an inmate could have swallowed during a visit with family in an attempt to smuggle in drugs. There is no requirement to scan all guards entering the prison.

Both corrections officials and inmates previously told the Monitor that they hope the installation of the scanners at the state’s prisons will provide an added layer of security that could pave the way for reconsideration of a stringent visitation policy. Former commissioner William Wrenn instituted a new policy in early 2017 that limited human contact and resulted in the removal of vending machines and board games in prison visiting rooms.

Wrenn said at the time that a stricter visitation policy was necessary in the wake of four overdoses – one of which was fatal – in the state’s correctional system during one weekend in January 2017.

The scanners will also be used in the prisons’ reception and diagnostic units to ensure inmates have not tried to conceal any contraband prior to entry.

In addition to installing full-body scanners, the Department of Corrections began a canine program. The dogs are trained to detect illegal drugs and cellphones. Whereas the scanners must remain in one place, the dogs are able to search any inmate housing area – including the mail room and visiting room – at any time, as well as assist probation/parole in searching residences.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)