Tippecanoe County Jail scans more than inmates

A body scanner is expected to help keep contraband out of the Tippecanoe County Jail. But its name can be deceiving, I this machine can scan much more than people.

Posted: Jul. 17, 2018 5:46 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Inside a jail cell, there's often more than what meets the eye.

"There's some guys down here that are very creative," said Tippecanoe County Jail Supervisor Cpt. Thomas Lehman. "Unfortunately, they're not using their talents for the right stuff."

For example, inmates who hide contraband.

"Stuff that we can't see inside of is what we want to search or what we can send through the scanner," said Lehman. "We haven't found any substances on or inside the body of any of the inmates coming in, but we have been able to scan mattresses. It's a common hiding place."

It's nice to have the scanner, just in case.

Sheriff Barry Richard purchased the scanner out of the commissary for $189,000.

Lehman said it has been operating for about a month now.

Anyone who enters the secured jail area can be subject to a body scan.

Lehman said if they refuse, they can be asked to leave for safety reasons.

"Certainly in the past we've had things come into the jail. We've received information that inmates would carry them inside body cavities from time to time. How much of a problem it was? We are not sure," said Lehman. 

But every time drugs do get in, people are at risk. Inmates and especially jail staff. Earlier this year, three correctional officers were sent to the hospital after being exposed to a narcotic brought in by an inmate. Body scanners can help, but Captain Thomas Lehman said it's not a sure solution.

"There are going to be times when we can't see a substance because of the nature of what it is or where it is located in the body," said Lehman. 

But with the scanner and the jail's standard protocols, Lehman hopes the problem is reduced dramatically.

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