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Imaging Machine to Deter Inmates From Bringing Contraband Into Jail

By Jessie Williams

The Macon County Jail is now one of two jails in the state of Tennessee to have implemented a state of the art imaging machine in an effort to deter inmates from bringing in illegal contraband.


According to Macon County Sheriff Mark Gammons, he has been researching ways to solve the issue of contraband smuggling at the jail and, after touring a facility in Kentucky that used an imaging machine, he presented his findings to the county commission in April of 2019.

“The biggest issue we have is inmates coming into the jail with contraband – mostly drugs – hidden in their body cavities,” said the sheriff. “These inmates either attempt to smuggle it in to use themselves, or to sell once they get inside the jail.”

The machine works like this – an inmate stands on a platform and a full body scan is taken by the machine. After just a few seconds, an image – much like an x-ray, pops up on a screen ran by a jail employee. The employee is able to see any items hidden inside the inmate’s body, pockets and any other areas on their person. The images are then saved to each inmate’s file.

Sheriff Gammons was given the green light to purchase the machine with funding from the jail at a cost of approximately $119,000. Once the machine was purchased, built and installed at the Macon County Jail, it underwent radiation testing by the state to measure the level of radiation inmates would be exposed to while being scanned.

“It was determined the machine puts out a very minimum radiation level,” said sheriff Gammons. “It was explained that a person is exposed to more radiation from eating a banana than they are being scanned by this machine.”

Jail employees were trained to operate the machine and it officially became part of the booking process in late December 2019. Work crews are also scanned by the machine when they return from their duties outside of the jail.

Sheriff Gammons did confirm that several items have already been discovered since the imaging machine has been implemented. “We hope that this will not only allow us to find any illegal contraband being brought into the jail, but that it will also be a deterrent for inmates.”

The Macon County Jail is the first jail in Tennessee to use this specific brand of imaging machine and the second jail in Tennessee to use an imaging machine at all.