To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of deploying millimetre scanners as part of Enhanced Gate Security measures at High Throughput Establishments in England and Wales in respect of (a) decreasing flows of illicit items and substances into custodial facilities, (b) increasing social distancing during prison visits and (c) increasing comfort for prison visitors; and if he will make a statement.
HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is taking decisive action to stop mobile phones and illicit substances entering prison and investing £100m to tackle crime behind bars. As part of this investment we are introducing Enhanced Gate Security (EGS) in approximately 50 priority sites. This includes archway metal detectors, wands, X-ray baggage scanners, drug dogs and any additional staff required to conduct searches and manage these new procedures.
Millimetre wave scanners operate using non-ionising electromagnetic radiation by omitting signals that enable items to be detected on the surface of the body and within clothing. Their current primary use is part of airport security to screen passengers. Although we remain engaged with the market on the potential of using millimetre wave scanners in prisons, our assessment from trials is that this technology does not currently meet our operational requirements within the custodial setting and therefore adequately support us to crack down on the supply of illicit items when compared to other enhanced gate security measures currently in use.
HMPPS recognises that by its very nature, searching of visitors and prisoners can bring staff into close contact. Despite social distancing measures between prisoners and visitors, the risk of conveyance is still present; therefore, searching of visitors remains necessary and HMPPS has developed guidance detailing safeguards for when close contact is necessary, complementing the Government’s social distancing strategy.