WA prisons introducing full-body X-ray scanners to detect hidden contraband

Visitors to Perth prisons will undergo a full-body X-ray upon entry in an attempt to stop the flow of drugs and other contraband to inmates.

The Department of Justice committed $1 million to the security upgrade, which will detect objects swallowed or hidden in body cavities and objects hidden under or within a person’s clothing.

The X-ray machines will be installed across several custodial and detention facilities, however will likely not include Acacia Prison, which is privately run.

In its 2020-21 annual report, the department stated that 4520 searches were conducted by the drugs detection unit, resulting 163 illicit drugs and contraband items being uncovered.

This number has trended up over the years, resulting in increased calls for more up-to-date technology to be installed.

In 2020, Bandyup Women’s Prison was put in lockdown after a tip-off led authorities to discover a crystal substance, a syringe, a bag with white powder residue and cannabis within the facility.

The find led officers to drug test 19 of the facility’s prisoners, nine of whom tested positive for methamphetamine.

A separate Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services report also found there had been several incidents at Hakea Prison where a prisoner had been in possession of contraband.

In one case, a prisoner started a fire in their cell after secreting a cigarette lighter.

In such instances, the introduction of improved technology would assist with such dilemmas, the report said.

At Banksia Hill Detention Centre, another report found there was limited technology to prevent the entry of contraband, and the process for searching staff entering the centre was not robust.

On Tuesday, a report into the Greenough Regional Prison riots in 2018 stated; We were told that the swab testing machine used on visitors’ clothing and bags didn’t always work.

There was limited scanning technology. Staff checked incoming staff and visitors with a metal detector wand, but there was no walk-through metal detector or X-ray machine.

It claimed the introduction of better technology would also help reduce the need for strip searches, which the OICS found was not an effective way to detect contraband, and was also an inherently intrusive and humiliating experience.

The X-ray machines are expected to complement anti-drone technology including sensors, radars and signal-jamming devices, which were installed in 2018 to stop drugs being air-dropped into prisons.

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