LA County to Review Use of Body Scanners in County Jails

In order to ensure safety in LA County jails and preserve the dignity of those entrusted to the County’s care, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, to collect data on the implementation of body scanners at County jail facilities. The Sheriff’s Department, County CEO, Office of Inspector General, and other County departments will report back to the Board in 90 days.

“I believe everyone agrees on the need to reduce and hopefully eliminate the need for strip searches, while balancing the need to identify and reduce contraband in the jails and preserve the dignity of inmates,” said Supervisor Solis, who authored the motion. “Thank you to the Office of Inspector General for their diligent attention to the issue of body scanners, and to the Sheriff’s Department for their continued efforts towards implementation. With body scanners deployed in the County’s jail facilities, today’s action is about supporting our shared goals of safety, transparency, efficiency, and dignity.”

“By reducing the need to conduct strip searches for contraband, body scanners enhance the safety of both County jail staff and inmates while also promoting the dignity of inmates,” the motion’s coauthor, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, said. “We should examine and, where needed, strengthen implementation of the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence’s recommendations on body scanners, in order to make the most of what this technology has to offer.”

Today’s motion calls for a report back to the Board on how often body scanners at each facility is used; details on when, why, and how often visual scans or strip searches are being used; barriers to implementation of body scanners; data on the effectiveness of body scanners; and an assessment on who is best to administer the scanners. Recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of body scanners while keeping facilities safe may also be made.

“We thank Supervisors Solis and Ridley-Thomas for authoring this motion. We believe that with proper evaluation, assessment, auditing and oversight of the existing practices of the use of body scanners, we can ensure that people who are behind bars are treated with dignity, respect and are free from harassment,” said Esther Lim, Director of Jails Project, and Deputy Director of Advocacy for the ACLU SoCal.

According to the “2012 Report of the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence,” the Commission noted that other large jurisdictions had introduced body scanners to reduce and eliminate the need for strip searches, which could be used to retaliate or humiliate inmates. At the time, the LA Sheriff’s Department had been making efforts towards transitioning from strip searches to body scanners, and the Board of Supervisors approved funding to install such scanners. LASD began a pilot program for implementation of the body scanners in the Inmate Reception Center in April 2014. In 2015, through an action by the Board of Supervisors, two correctional consultants conducted assessments to determine the number of body scanners needed, as well as what additional staffing and funding would be needed. All of the recommendations were adopted by LASD, and, as of May 2018, body scanners have been fully implemented in each of the recommended facilities.


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