Jail scanners well worth the high price

There is a huge drug problem in the Mahoning Valley and Trumbull County Sheriff Paul Monroe wants to make sure it stays outside the walls of the Trumbull County Jail.

A $118,000 body scanner is en route to the county jail on High Street in downtown Warren to help guard against inmates smuggling contraband into the facility. It will be placed in the intake and reception area. Similarly, at Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene’s urging, the Mahoning County Jail last month received shipment of that facility’s body scanner, purchased at around the same price tag. Greene argued that it would not just guard against the influx of drugs, but also weapons and other contraband that can slip by corrections officers charged with searching the bodies of every incoming inmate. The scanner also provides a legal way to make sure people aren’t concealing contraband without conducting an invasive body cavity search.

“This will give corrections officers another tool to help stop the smuggling of illegal items into the jail,” Monroe said noting that drugs, weapons and food are often part of this illegal cache.

In describing the value of the new machine, Greene recently said this: “I don’t have to tell you how creative people will get to get things in the jail.”

As such, sheriff’s officials at both jails say these airport-style X-ray scanners will go far to help deputies detect contraband before the inmates even get into the jail.

It was only a few months ago — April 25 — that Trumbull inmate Timothy Kirkland suffered an overdose on drugs illegally smuggled into the jail. He was hospitalized on life support for several weeks. While he managed to survive, his prognosis was touch and go for quite a while.

Also this spring, seven Fayette County jail female inmates overdosed within that facility and were transported to Fayette Memorial Hospital.

Sure, many folks may question why we, as taxpayers, go to these great lengths to protect people who are being held in jail because they’re charged with committing crimes, who have smuggled illegal contraband into the facility or who have voluntarily put the drugs into their bodies.

But as Monroe has pointed out, once an inmate has come into his facility, an obligation comes along to protect that inmate against potential harm. Sadly, that often means protecting them against themselves.

And, of course, we must consider the possibility of legal costs that could arise from potential lawsuits if an inmate were to die or suffer a life-altering reaction from ingesting illegal contraband while in the jail. If that were to happen, legal costs and potential damages could far exceed the $118,000 price tag for the high-tech unit.

While $118,000 may sound like a hefty price tag, we believe the cost of each unit is well worth the value of saving a life.