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Public Safety

San Diego Grand Jury recommends scanning tech to stop drugs entering jails

San Diego County Sheriff's Department jail George Bailey Bill Gore
Alexander Nguyen
The San Diego County Sheriff Department's George Bailey Detention Facility is pictured on April 28, 2022.

Scanning technology should be utilized at all San Diego County jails in order to curtail the flow of drugs into local detention facilities, according to a report released Tuesday by the San Diego County Grand Jury.

The Grand Jury recommended in its latest report to add more scanning equipment to county jails, train additional employees to operate the scanners, and consider the feasibility of scanning all people who enter the jails, including employees.

The rate of in-custody deaths at San Diego County jails is among the highest in the state, and according to research cited in the Grand Jury's report, 89% of county jail deaths between 2010 and 2020 were drug overdoses.


The report's release followed the Grand Jury's tour of seven county detention facilities, including the still-unopened Rock Mountain Detention Facility in Otay Mesa.

While scanning machines are used at detention facilities and the sheriff's department is in the process of purchasing more, the Grand Jury recommended adding more whole-body X-ray scanners, as well as scanners that can examine a higher volume of mail than is currently done.

Whole body scanners are not being used at the East Mesa Reentry Facility or the South Bay Detention Center and the Grand Jury says the sheriff's department lacks the most effective equipment for scanning mail coming into the jails.

The efficiency of conducting scans can also be improved by hiring full- time civilian scanner operators, as only sworn sheriff's staff are currently being used to operate the scanners, the report states.

The Grand Jury's report also touched on concerns of the potential health effects of ionizing radiation used in scanning equipment. A recommendation from the Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board to scan all people who enter county jails was recently rejected by sheriff's officials over radiation exposure concerns, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported earlier this year.


However, the Grand Jury cited a report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on scanners for jails and medical facilities, which stated that after reviewing radiation safety standards, "an individual may be scanned up to 1,000 times per year, including multiple times per day, without exceeding the limit for safe exposure to ionizing radiation."

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