Metro-East News

New equipment at St. Clair County Jail eliminates need for strip-searches

A SecurPASS body scanner was recently installed at the St. Clair County Jail.
A SecurPASS body scanner was recently installed at the St. Clair County Jail. SecurPASS

A new piece of equipment at the St. Clair County Jail will help protect inmates and improve security at the facility, says Sheriff Rick Watson.

The $175,000 body scanner placed at the sally port entrance to the jail, first reported by Fox2 in St. Louis, is akin to the type of scanners travelers see at airports.

Incoming inmates can walk through the scanner, which will reveal hidden contraband or weapons, Watson said. The new equipment means jail staff won't have to strip-search inmates any longer, a practice that has lead to lawsuits in the past.

"In order to put somebody in the population or bring them into the jail we have to do searches," the sheriff said. "We wanted to eliminate strip searches as much as we could."

Other items coming into the jail like blankets or mattresses can also pass through the scanner.

The sheriff's department had to save for the SecurPASS scanner over several years, Watson said. The department saved revenue from inmate commissary purchases and drug seizure money to cover the cost of the equipment.

No taxpayer dollars were used in the purchase, Watson said, and the department managed to bargain the $225,000 original purchase price down by $50,000.

"It finally became a reality," Watson said. "It's going to make a huge difference."

SecurPASS is a digital x-ray company based in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Kelsey Landis: 618-239-2110, @kelseylandis