Edmonton

Remand Centre gets body scanner to help stop flow of drugs, weapons

Edmonton's Remand Centre will soon have a body scanner to help stop the flow of drugs and weapons into the facility. On Wednesday morning, the centre revealed the new technology as part of a year-long pilot project aimed at making the facility safer for inmates and those who work inside.

'This system will be able to look inside and tell us that you are transporting stuff into our building'

The body scanner will show an officer where contraband might be hidden.

Edmonton's Remand Centre will soon have a body scanner to help stop the flow of drugs and weapons into the facility. 

On Wednesday morning, the centre revealed the new technology as part of a year-long pilot project aimed at making the facility safer for inmates and those who work inside.

"The new body scanner provides us with a highly effective piece of technology that greatly increases our ability to intercept contraband before it enters the facility," said Ken Johnston, director of safety at the remand centre.

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Edmonton Remand Centre security director Ken Johnston demonstrates the new body scanner to prevent the smuggling of weapons, drugs and other contraband.

"This system will be able to look inside and tell us that you are transporting stuff into our building. We see it not as a replacement for our existing procedures but as another useful tool in our toolbox to prevent the narcotics and contraband from entering our facility."

"It's the potency of what's coming in"

At present, inmates coming into the remand centre are searched using pat downs, drug dogs and other methods. The scanner, similar to the technology used at airports, will help guards pinpoint everything from homemade weapons to tiny amounts of drugs such as fentanyl, which pose threats to inmates and guards alike. 

Since Jan 1. 2016, there have been three drug overdose deaths at the centre. 

"It's the potency of what's coming in that's caused the greatest concern," said Johnston.

Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said his members have been lobbying the government to enhance safety.

"Health and safety is our number one priority for our members," said Smith.

He said several guards in Alberta have come into contact with fentanyl in jails. 
Remand Centre director of safety Ken Johnston, in uniform, demonstrates a mock run-through of the body scanner with a staff member.

"We've also asked the government to provide Narcan kits, the antidote to fentanyl exposure, and that's occurring as well," he said. "So I think both the government, the employer and the union are taking this extremely seriously."

The scanner cost $580,000.

Similar ones are currently used in 29 jails in Ontario, and at some in British Columbia.

The one-year pilot project begins on Dec. 1. 

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