New Hampshire’s prisons could soon see full-body scanners

  • Legislation headed to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk would require state prisons, including the New Hampshire State Prison for Women seen here in Concord, to install full-body scanners to help curb the flow of contraband. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 6/1/2017 3:40:36 PM

Installation of full-body scanners at New Hampshire’s prisons is one step closer after the House passed legislation Thursday that will now head to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 133 makes changes to the security screening procedures at state-owned correctional facilities, which got the go-ahead nearly one year ago to install full-body scanners to help curb the flow of contraband.

Had the department installed the full-body scanners under the current law, anyone entering the state’s three prisons would have been required to walk through them. SB 133 provides greater specificity in who should be scanned by focusing on individuals entering the secure perimeter of a facility.

For example, rather than scanning every visitor, officials say they will require inmates leaving the visiting room to walk through a full-body scanner before returning to their cells. The X-ray technology will allow correctional officers to detect contraband that an inmate could have swallowed during a visit in an attempt to smuggle in drugs.

The $1.1 million-dollar project is one of several ways that the Department of Corrections is trying to clamp down on the flow of illicit drugs.

Commissioner William Wrenn implemented a new visitation policy in January that limits the degree of physical contact inmates can have with their visitors. In addition, the policy called for the removal of vending machines and board games from visiting rooms. Officials said inmates had previously used snack food and games to conceal drugs.

Wrenn said in a recent Monitor interview that he views the body scanners as an important tool to combat the current drug problem. If they prove successful, he said, he will be open to rethinking the visitation policy and “stepping it back a bit.”

While Wrenn identified prison visiting rooms as one of the main problem areas, he said the prisons’ reception and diagnostic units – where inmates are processed and assigned a custody level – pose a similar concern. Those with a heads up they may be returning to prison may swallow inflated balloons concealing contraband prior to entry and wait for it to pass through their digestive system once on the other side, he said.

The governor’s office released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that Gov. Chris Sununu “looks forward to reviewing the legislation now that it is in its final form.”

The Department of Corrections posted its request for proposals for the full-body scanners in early May. The bid submission deadline is June 30.

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




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