New body scanning technology is now in service at some Manitoba jails, with the goal of keeping drugs and other contraband items out of the facilities, the province announced Thursday.

“Illicit drugs and other contraband present a significant risk to inmates and staff,” said Justice Minister Cliff Cullen in a news release.

“This technology will help keep drugs and other contraband out of our jails while acting as a deterrent for those who would smuggle dangerous substances into our facilities.”

The technology, in use at three correctional centres in Winnipeg, Brandon and The Pas, uses low x-ray doses to scan an inmate’s body and create a skeletal image which shows if there are any foreign objects on the person. Officers can then determine if there’s a contraband item on or inside an inmate and take the necessary steps.

Before the new body scanners, inmates who were suspected of having ingested or inserted contraband items were put in cells without plumbing called dry cells. The province said the use of dry cells more often than not didn’t result in the recovery of contraband, but cost hundreds of thousands to staff.

The province invested $754,000 in the new body scanners, which Cullen said will ultimately save around $740,000 in three years and $440,000 per year for each year afterward. 

Around 20 of these scanners are already being used in other provinces, which the province said report high contraband recovery numbers particularly in the period right after they’re installed.