The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) announced a new security protocol that applies to everyone who enters TDOC prisons in 2023.

Beginning this month, all people who enter a TDOC prison will be required to be screened by a full body scanner. The scanners are meant to “act as deterrents for individuals considering bringing contraband into a facility,” TDOC explained in a recent press release.

Full body scanners are specifically designed to detect metallic and nonmetallic threat items, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

“Like all correctional agencies across the country, Tennessee is in a constant battle to keep contraband out of our facilities. We are committed to meeting the evolving threat and our mission of operating safe and secure prisons,” TDOC Interim Commissioner Lisa Helton said in a statement. “The scanners will give our staff the ability to see what the naked eye cannot and add an extra layer of protection to our current approach.”

Helton continued, stating, “Contraband is not just drugs – it is anything not distinctly allowed in our facilities. That could include tobacco, cell phones, weapons, and other electronics. Items like these breed an unsafe environment for everyone inside and can interfere greatly with the rehabilitation of offenders.”

The current security protocols for entering TDOC prisons – which include walking through a metal detector and allowing all belongings, outerwear, and shoes to pass through an x-ray machine – will continue to apply to staff, visitors, volunteers, and all other personnel, TDOC notes. Additionally, a pat-down or wand search will still be required by all who visit TDOC prisons.

TDOC also notes that individuals “with a pacemaker or in a wheelchair, children sixteen (16) years of age or younger, pregnant individuals or those who think they may be pregnant, will not be required to clear the body scanner.”

In addition, those with other “mobility or physical conditions preventing the use of the body scanner will be required to undergo all other security measures and must produce documentation (doctor’s note, etc.) during subsequent visits,” according to TDOC.

The screening technology used by TDOC meets national health and safety standards, the department adds.

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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network.
Photo “Man in Jail” by RODNAE Productions.