Machines improve safety, provide officers with latest technology
Improving the safety and security at the Cook County Jail for both officers and detainees alike, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart on Tuesday unveiled new body scanning machines that feature the most technologically advanced images available.
Cook County Jail is the first major correctional facility in the nation to use the RadPRO SecurPASS machines. With just a seven-second scan, officers are able to determine whether detainees are hiding drugs, weapons or other contraband in their clothing, hair or even in a body cavity. The machines do not show any anatomical outlines or facial features, ensuring detainee privacy. While most scanners show items as small as ½-inch thick, the RadPRO SecurPASS machines show items as small as .02 inches, even while using technology that is far safer than a general medical x-ray.
Four of the machines are now in operation at the 9,000-inmate jail and Sheriff Dart said the machines are even more impressive than most initially realized. Though the machines are now in the men’s receiving room, women’s receiving room and two maximum security buildings, he hopes to budget future funds to place the machines in every jail facility.
“All of our officers are unarmed while they are in the jail, so these machines are the main way we can try to ensure their safety,” Sheriff Dart said. “In just four years, we have gone from strip searching detainees to ensure they have no contraband to using body scanners to this. It’s incredible progress and we’re proud to lead the way in introducing the newest and best technology available.”
Medical Applications Specialists (MAS) first presented the technology to Cook County Sheriff’s staff in August 2010. George Brown, president of Oak Brook-based MAS, joined Sheriff Dart on Tuesday as they demonstrated the machines, the first of which was delivered to the Cook County Jail in November.
“Because these machines have been so successful in the second-largest jail in the nation, we have had numerous other correctional facilities, court systems and gaming establishments express interest in them,” Brown said. “It’s our goal to provide the most advanced sources of contraband detection to each of those organizations.”
Since 1994, MAS has been providing government agencies, hospitals and businesses with medical imaging systems and services, including designing and consulting. Brown, who is a former correctional officer with a degree in institutional corrections, formed a new division of the company last year, MAS Security Solutions, to focus on incorporating this technology in a correctional setting. Virtual Imaging, a subsidiary of Canon USA, has distribution rights for SecurPASS within the western hemisphere and supports MAS through its sales and distribution efforts. Virtual Imaging’s primary business is retrofitting analog x-ray systems with digital capabilities, like the SecurPASS machines. In addition to Cook County, MAS has demonstrated the machines for officials in California, New York, the Gulf Coast and other areas of the United States, with machines already in use in Florida and Alabama.
After officials examined the machines and researched other technologies available, the sheriff’s office purchased four machines at a cost of $940,500, which includes the units, accessories, training and shipping costs. They will replace some of the L3 body scanning machines, which have been in use since 2008. Those 11 machines were purchased for $1.9 million but do not allow for such extreme levels of examination, nor similar levels of privacy.
Some of those L3 machines are set to be moved to Cook County courthouses, where jail detainees will be scanned as they arrive for and depart from criminal court proceedings, adding another layer of security for Cook County employees and facilities.