After fatal escape, Pottawattamie County Jail adds full-body scanner to protect staff, inmates

Pottawattamie County Sheriff Jeff Danker said the jail’s new security body scanner will help prevent prisoners smuggling contraband in the future — and that such a device could have prevented tragedy a year ago.

“If we had this at the time, we would have had a good shot of finding” the handcuff key believed to be used by Wesley Correa-Carmenaty. On May 1, 2017, Correa-Carmenaty used a smuggled key in his escape from the Pottawattamie County Jail, which led to the murder of Deputy Mark Burbridge. Deputy Pat Morgan and another man were also wounded.

The scanner is similar to devices already in use at airports by the Transportation Security Administration. Through a low amount of X-rays, the SecurPass Whole Body Digital Screening System takes a head-to-toe snapshot of the person (or object) being scanned to an immense level of detail.

With it, authorities and staff at the jail will be able to better detect any foreign objects a prisoner could be trying to smuggle on their person.

“It should enhance our security measures but will not replace our other methods,” Danker added. “Prisoners can be inventive on how they hide items.”

The handcuff key was never found and Correa-Carmenaty never admitted how he was able to defeat his handcuffs and mount his escape.

The new technology will be used on all incoming arrests, all inmates leaving the building in custody and upon their return to the jail.

Whatever — or whoever — is being scanned stands on a platform, which is then slid left and right through the device while being scanned.

At the lowest level, it would take 400 trips through to equal the radiation of one medical X-ray.

Federal standards allow a person to be scanned 1,000 times per year in such a fashion, according to officials. The image is then transported nearby to a workstation so staff can look over any findings.

The scanner is the first of its kind to be used by a jail in Iowa, Danker said. Finding and preventing contraband from entering the jail will reduce risk to jail staff and other prisoners.

When the process to find a suitable device for the jail began after the May 1 incident, Danker said their office worked with the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors to manage the price.

The price tag for the county was $189,000, including costs to train 45 employees at the jail to use the scanner during any and all shifts.

Danker said the money came from unused funds the sheriff’s office returned to the general fund at the end of their fiscal year. The county also received federal funding in exchange for housing federal suspects at the jail.

“It’s not an inexpensive piece of equipment,” Danker said. “But it aids in safety.”

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