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Once or twice a day, someone being booked into the Salt Lake County Jail is caught with contraband such as a weapon, handcuff key or balloon full of drugs.

But a new digital security system installed this week is expected to sharply reduce the number of banned items smuggled into the jail, as well as nearly eliminate strip searches, a benefit for both prisoners and staff, Sheriff Jim Winder said Wednesday.

"We know contraband is being introduced into our facility," Winder said at a news conference announcing the purchase of two SecurPASS whole body scanners. "We're well on our way to making this place safer."

To date this year, there have been approximately 500 incidents of contraband smuggling, including one involving an inmate with 25 balloons of heroin, he said.

The SecurPASS scanners produce a detailed image of lungs, bones and body cavities — but not facial features or private parts. The image also shows narcotics, weapons, sharp objects and other contraband inside clothing or body cavities.

Under legal standards, people being booked into jail cannot be subjected to a strip search unless there is a reasonable suspicion that they have contraband, Winder said. About 10 percent of the 120 people processed a day are strip searched.

Now everyone being booked, as well as the several hundred inmates being taken to and from the jail each day to court hearings or other appointments, will be scanned, a process that takes eight seconds. Strip searches will be very rare and used only with pregnant women and people with pacemakers who need to be checked for contraband, Winder said.

"Eight seconds will not add significant time at all to our processing," the sheriff said, adding that the new process will be less intrusive to the inmates.

The two machines cost just under $300,000 and were bought with money from the jail's inmate services fund, which contains the profits from prisoner purchases at the commissary.

Winder said his office has worked with state agencies to ensure the system meets all health regulations. One chest X-ray is the equivalent to 400 SecurPASS scans, and under federal regulations, an individual can have 4,000 of the scans in one year, according to Virtual Imaging Inc., the system's manufacturer. The Florida-based company is a division of Canon U.S.A.

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC