New body scanning technology that will keep drugs and other contraband out of Manitoba jails is now fully operational at correctional centres in Winnipeg, Brandon and The Pas.

“Illicit drugs and other contraband present a significant risk to inmates and staff,” said Justice Minister Cliff Cullen. “This technology will help keep drugs and other contraband out of our jails while acting as a deterrent for those who would smuggle dangerous substances into our facilities.”

The devices use very low x-ray doses to scan through the body to produce a skeletal image that can reveal foreign objects. Officers can then confirm the presence of contraband on or inside the body and target interventions accordingly.

Prior procedures to locate contraband consisted of placing inmates suspected of having ingested or inserted contraband in cells with no plumbing, called ‘dry cells’. Less than 10 per cent of dry cell cases result in contraband recovery. In 2017-18, the province used almost 11,000 hours of staff time for dry cells, at a cost of more than $450,000.

The minister noted that investing in body scanning technology is expected to generate savings of approximately $740,000 in three years, and $440,000 per year each year after.

The investment was first announced last spring as part of the province’s public service transformation strategy. Funding is being made available through the Idea Fund, which supports innovative initiatives within government. These ideas are advanced by front-line public servants and are designed to produce meaningful return on investment for taxpayers.

Approximately 20 scanners are currently in use in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. Saskatchewan has also recently purchased four scanners. These jurisdictions report high volumes of contraband recovery, particularly in the period immediately following installation.

Scanners come equipped with various safeguards and officers have received training in the scanning process, which poses no health risks to inmates or staff. This proven technology has become a correctional standard in Canada, the minister said.

The funding for body scanners is part of an overall $3.3-million investment from Budget 2019 in 16 Idea Fund projects brought forward by civil servants within Manitoba Justice.