By Associated Press - Saturday, July 11, 2015

WILLISTON, Vt. (AP) - Vermont plans to implement a new employee search policy aimed at cracking down on prison contraband, officials said.

State Department of Corrections’ staff will now occasionally be asked to turn out their pockets and open their bags, WPTZ-TV reported ( Friday. The policy is expected to be implemented later this month.

The change supplements ongoing efforts to combat contraband, said facilities operation director Mike Touchette. The state is already conducting prison searches by drug-sniffing dogs, as well as new training and intelligence-sharing for correctional officers.

“Inmates who struggle with addiction - when they’re surrounded by drugs inside of a controlled setting, their ability to recover is greatly diminished,” Touchette said.

Contraband is found in a Vermont prison nearly every day, he said, though most incidents are unintentional.

“There have been a couple of cases here and there over the past couple of years,” he said. “We think it’s important to note we don’t have a significant amount of evidence to suggest that our employees are introducing contraband,” he said.

Touchette said officers can sometimes forget to leave a pack of cigarettes in the car, which are then stolen by inmates. The new random searches should prevent these things from happening.

He said there will never be any strip searches. Pat-downs, though technically legal, will not be implemented at this time.

“It’s much too invasive for the types of things that we’re trying to capture,” Touchette said regarding patting-down staff. “And we’re trying to find a good balance between controlling what contraband might be coming into a facility and maintaining the integrity of our workforce.”

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