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First NSW Prison To Use Full Body Scanners To Detect Drugs, Weapons Smuggled In

EXCLUSIVE: A prison north-west of Sydney has begun using full body X-rays to expose inmates who may be hiding contraband - namely up where ‘the sun don’t shine’.

The medium-security John Morony Correctional Centre near Windsor is the first in New South Wales to install the high-tech scanner.

It will soon be mandatory for each of the 441 inmates to be scanned every time they have contact with a visitor. The process takes roughly seven seconds and produces a full body X-ray.

A guard can then easily see whether the inmate has slipped anything under their overalls or inside their body.

“Moving forward inmates who have a contact visit will be subject to the X-ray body scan technology.”

“What that means is that we are implementing this in full, so it’ll be a mandatory requirement following a contact visit with family,” the prison governor Louisa Van Mal said.

IMAGE: 10 News First

Under health regulations governing radiation exposure, inmates can be scanned a maximum of 200 times per year.

“It provides a full body x-ray and we can see whether or not somebody has ingested contraband or whether or not they have secreted it on their person,” Van Mal said.

John Morony is also the first prison in the state to install a heartbeat detector to scan vehicles leaving the centre. The aim is to catch any inmate trying to escape by hiding in the boot of a car or a truck’s many compartments.

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After magnetic sensors are attached to the chassis of a vehicle, the ‘Human Presence Detection System’ takes less than a minute to scan for signs of life.

In a demonstration for 10 News First, to show how sensitive the scan can be, a prison officer asked a truck driver to place one hand on his vehicle.

Almost immediately the machine detected his heartbeat.

“It provides an extra layer of security,” Governor Van Mal said.

“That’s particularly important I think when you have those larger industrial, commercial vehicles. A lot of those vehicles contain a number of compartments and cabinets which inmates could potentially hide in.”

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The NSW Corrections Minister Anthony Roberts is watching the results closely.

“If they work we’ll roll them out to other prisons across New South Wales,” he told 10 News First.

The x-ray scanner and heartbeat detector complement the work of the Security Operations Group which last year conducted more than 10,000 inmate-property searches.

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Acting Manager of Security Matthew Horan said it was an ‘every day’ fight against mobile phones, as the devices become smaller and increasingly made of plastic.

“We’re having thumb-sized smart phones, mostly bought on the internet, introduced into correctional centres by a variety of means,” he said.

The elite unit also uses sniffer dogs specifically trained to detect mobile phones.

Contact the author  lkennedy@networkten.com.au