Pa prisons’ drug screenings plagued by false positives

J-Nae Kettoman doesn’t care if she looks strange, scrubbing in like a surgeon with Dial soap brought from home, then snapping on latex gloves before lining up to enter the visiting room at the State Correctional Institution Phoenix.

It’s just part of the regimen that Kettoman, a Dauphin County resident who works for the Commonwealth as a clerk typist, has devised to avoid setting off the prison’s ion mobility spectrometer  a device that analyzes swabs of every visitor’s hands and pockets to detect trace levels of narcotics.

“We just were thinking: How can we get around touching anything else once we’ve washed our hands?” Kettoman, whose husband is serving 10 to 20 years, said of the ritual she and a friend developed after her second alarm earlier this year. A third strike would lead to a six-month suspension of her visiting privileges. “It’s just nerve-racking.”

Visitors complain the extremely sensitive machines are prone to false positives — either from incidental contamination (studies have found cocaine traces on up to 90 percent of U.S. currency) or from other substances that may trigger positive readings.

The DOC, which began the switch to its next-generation Rapiscan Itemiser 3E scanners in July 2017, says the matter is urgent. It has published intercepted letters that articulate the extreme measures visitors undertake to smuggle in drugs, including hiding them in body cavities.
But the Department of Corrections says the machines, in use at each of the state’s 25 prisons, function as intended. Now, as part of a $15 million initiative to keep drugs out of prisons, the DOC is doubling down on this technology, purchasing two new ion scanners for each prison at a cost of $1.86 million.
When the DOC was asked about all of these false positives they told Butler News Group that “mistakes can happen every now and then, and when they do we rectify the matter promptly”


1 Comment

  1. It seems the smoke and mirrors never end with the rapist bigotry production corporations such as the slave camps here in Pennsylvania. I spent 2 years in S.C.I. DALLAS. They strip the inmate down, make them bend over and spreadem, cough, and open your mouth, flip your ear lobes. The small amount of drugs getting in thru the visit doesn’t add up to the amount of drugs in the D.O.C. There must be something more?? Ah, how about staff. Here is the motive. An average of 2500 in mates in each camp. If half use drugs that’s 1250 inmates buying an average of $50 worth of drug of choice each week. That’s $62,500 dollars a week. Now u can start to see thru the smoke and mirrors. Who do the staff have to answer to? Who oversees the prison administration? Their all protected by the union they work for and the Governor of the State of Pennsylvania. If you do the research you will find the civil war was never declared. It is when the fraud upon the people began. In your mind we freed slavery but in reality we fought for the government, the Union. Only to enslave everyone including yourself. Reclaim your birthright and claim your inmate back from the state. Amen.

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