According to the Bellingham Herald, faulty body scanners at the Whatcom County Jail are letting drugs and other contraband into the lockup and must be replaced.
“Within the last two weeks, we’ve had three overdoses related to fentanyl that’s been smuggled into the facility. This is becoming an increasing problem, and those scanners are one of the main tools that we have to detect contraband, both weapons and drugs being smuggled into the facility by persons coming in to the facility through the booking process.” ~WCSO Undersheriff Doug Chadwick
According to previous Bellingham Herald reporting, those scanners were bought in 2018 and 2019 to keep drugs, weapons, cigarettes and lighters out of the jail. Unfortunately, the company that makes the scanners isn’t servicing or maintaining them. Thus far in 2023 there have been 13 overdoses in Whatcom County jail facilities.
My opinion? These security breaches should not be happening. Hopefully, the newly-passed sales tax to pay for a new Whatcom County jail will bring new and improved scanners. Proposition 4 – which passed by 66% in Whatcom County – was the third jail measure Whatcom County had put before voters since 2015. The 2015 plan was for a 521-bed jail at a cost of $125 million. After voters rejected that proposal, county leaders came back in 2017 with 480 beds and a $110 million price tag. Voters rejected this smaller, cheaper jail even more resoundingly.
Under the law, correctional officers have more leeway to order intrusive searches of inmates in a county jail or prison. Along with body scanners, officers can perform a strip search if the search is related to reasonable objectives, such as safety and security. As a result, a defendant’s Constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure isn’t available if they’re in custody.
Police can perform strip searches without the factors that would give rise to a suspicion that the arrestee possessed concealed contraband. This is allowed, even though nothing about their case would lead police to believe they had anything dangerous or prohibited on their person. Making matters worse, it’s a felony for an inmate to possess weapons and/or contraband.
Jail is a terrible place. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.