- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - X-ray machines that corrections experts billed as one of the best ways to halt the influx of drugs in New Hampshire prisons have yet to find their way into any penitentiaries.

The half-dozen full-body scanners, which would cost about $1 million, have caused a dispute between lawmakers and the state’s corrections department over how best to use the machines. Now, the program appears to be at risk.

Critics contend that language used in the proposal passed last year was rushed and even supporters of the scanners say it’s too broad. Rather than targeting only inmates who return from visiting with loved ones or from outside doctor’s appointments, the stipulation required anyone, including prison guards and all visitors, even pregnant women, to go through the scanners.

“If I brought the machines in right now, I would have to require everyone who walks into the facility to go through the scanner,” said William Wrenn, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. “When you put X-rays into people’s body, it creates a whole bunch of issues.”

Wrenn has called for the legislature to narrow the bill’s language, shifting away from requiring everyone entering a prison to be scanned. Instead, he wants prison officials to have the authority to decide.

A new bill was proposed in the Senate this session to offer Wrenn greater flexibility. But it was tabled last month, raising doubts over whether the machines could be bought this year.

“We are trying to adjust to make it safe for everyone,” said Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, the new bill’s author. He said he is unsure why the bill has gotten into trouble in the Republican-controlled legislature.

“I thought it was quite simple but somebody has an issue with it,” he said.

Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper said he wasn’t aware of the concerns about the law’s language, noting that Wrenn has yet to discuss the issue with him which was “disappointing.” He was hopeful the problem could be sorted out this session.

“I think it’s critical to have these scanners in place,” he said, adding that he’s heard about prisoners becoming drug addicts once in prison. “That is a huge concern.”

The scanners would be the latest tool New Hampshire has to combat the influx of drugs. Prison officials said the number of inmates testing positive for drugs has more than tripled since 2014.

Over the past two years, officials have banned greeting cards, postcards and children’s drawings, removed vending machines and board games from visiting rooms and barred prisoners and visitors from kissing and limited hugging.

Wrenn has said the scanners might allow him to scrap some of those restrictions, which critics have warned could lead to the break of up families and disgruntled prisoners doing even more drugs.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide