ARIZONA NEWS

MCSO to install scanning machines at jails to detect for drugs, other contraband

Jan 12, 2023, 4:25 AM | Updated: 7:34 am
(Facebook Photo/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)...
(Facebook Photo/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
(Facebook Photo/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announced scanning machines will soon be installed at jailhouses to detect for drugs and other contraband entering and exiting the facilities, authorities announced Wednesday.

The announcement came during a press conference, moments after Penzone said a detention officer who had been working at the Lower Buckeye Jail was arrested for attempting to smuggle pills into the facility.

“I’m at a stage now where I think it’s not only important but appropriate that we purchase scanning machines so that every individual who enters our jail — whether it be staff/volunteers — anybody and everyone who enters into the secured population will be checked to determine if we can mitigate and intercept any potential contraband coming into the jail,” Penzone said.

Funding for the machines, which have no official launch date, will come from cost savings already in budget.

“If we need to upgrade the entire system in the entire jail system, I’m willing to do that,” Penzone said. “But we’re going to find the one that is the most effective and put it in play in all of our jails as soon as possible.”

A team was assembled to work together to determine the most safe and effective scanning devices, how to staff the equipment and ways to ensure effectiveness so there are no holdups for employees about to begin their shift, the sheriff said.

Somewhere between seven and ten scanning machines, valued at $150,000-$250,00 per unit, could be heading to five jails in Maricopa County, he said.

“If we truly want to be a drug-free, safe jail system, we have to take every step possible and that means demanding that our employees become comfortable with that idea that we should be checking them as they enter, as well as everyone else,” Penzone said.

In 2022, there were 282 incident reports for narcotics in the jails and 158 incoming inmate postcards seized by the mailroom that tested positive for being soaked in fentanyl and/or methamphetamine, according to numbers Penzone shared during the press conference.

There were also 17 in-custody deaths that were caused from an overdose or drugs were a major contributing factor, according to the medical examiner.

Over 1,500 detention officers, sergeants and lieutenants have been trained to deploy Narcan since October 2022.

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MCSO to install scanning machines at jails to detect for drugs, other contraband