HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County is preparing to buy a full body scanner at $169,000 to use at the county prison.

The scanner, similar to a walk-through version used at larger airports, can be paid for with the county’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money, Warden Abbie Tate told commissioners Tuesday during their weekly meeting.

The county has received an $11 million allocation from CARES, which can be spent on COVID-19 expenses and related efforts. So far, commissioners have indicated that $1 million of the $11 million is allocated for county-related COVID-19 expenses.

“Other prisons are going this route,” Tate said of the pending purchase.

In light of COVID-19, Tate said the scanner will be beneficial in that it will help the prison avoid hands-on searches of inmates. The scanner is also capable of revealing contraband that inmates are hiding inside their bodies and reading a person’s temperature, another possible COVID-19 symptom.

Commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb endorsed the purchase of the scanner, which he said has been on the prison’s “wish list.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic developed, prisons throughout the United States were buying or investigating the purchase of full body scanners. The units were deemed to be effective in trying to identify contraband that inmates were bringing into the prison or trying to transfer within the prison.

The state Department of Corrections also reported that after a a full body scanner was introduced in 2018 at the Wernersville Community Correction Center in Berks County, drug overdoses dropped. 

Closer to home, Cambria County Prison uses a full-body scanner based on a decision commissioners made in August 2017.

At that time, Cambria arranged to buy the scanner from Nuctech Co. Limited, headquartered in China. As reported in the Mirror, company personnel advised Cambria County that it normally charged $120,000 for this scanner but set the unit’s price at $77,000, as long as out-of-county prison administrators could visit Cambria County and see it in use.

Device can detect contraband, avoiding hands-on searchesBlair County is preparing to buy its body security scanner from Tek84, a San Diego, Calif., company. The price of $169,000 includes the security scanning system, installation and calibration, three days of on-site operator training, two year guarantee on parts and labor following installation and a thermal scanner provided by Infrared Camera Inc., a Beaumont, Texas, company.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.