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Tennessee Prison’s Body Scanner Mothballed Due to Violations

After a spat of bad publicity from contraband cellphones becoming prolific inside its prisons, the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) spent $118,750 on a body scanner to use at its Riverbend prison. However, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) conducted an inspection after the scanner’s installation, finding violations that forced prison officials to mothball device.

The Soter body scanner uses low doses of radiation to scan a person’s entire body. It was installed at Riverbend in April 2014, and TDEC conducted an inspection in October 2014. It found 11 violations, and TDOC agreed not to use the machine until it could address the concerns.

Among the violations is a basic tag that identifies the “name and address of the manufacturer, the place, month and year of manufacture, and the model and serial number of the system.”  A radiation survey to verify the radiation dose to the target and the maximum hourly dose rate around the device comply with federal, state, and local regulations was not conducted. A leakage survey was not conducted, nor were administrative controls to ensure proper dosage limits to individuals over a year put in place. TDOC even failed to properly train the scanner’s operators, which resulted in improper use by those being scanned improperly facing the source of the radiation.

“We ask that you follow these really stringent requirements,” said Deborah Shults, TDEC’s director of radiological health division. “Until they can prove that, and prove that they are achieving this low dose and that operators are well trained, them they’re not going to use this.”

TDOC has hired a radiological expert to help it come into compliance. “It is our hope that the machine will be operational in the near future since we determine it to be an important tool in the fight against contraband,” said TDOC spokeswoman Neysa Taylor.

Source:; TDEC X-Ray Registration 319-0950. 

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