By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Behind bars, it’s an unending game of hide and seek — inmates hiding contraband, and corrections officers looking for it.

Alex DeMetrick reports, a new tool promises to be a game changer.

Locking up prisoners is one thing, but keeping contraband from them is a struggle all its own. Especially when it comes to cell phones.

But a new scanner, twice as sensitive as normal scanners, detects even cell phones that would normally go unnoticed.

“This mini-cell phone is the same size as this BMW key,” says Danean Stewart, security chief. “This cell phone can fit inside books, property, as well as the inmate’s body cavity.”

The detector can also find tiny pieces of metal, like a needle in a mattress or a razor blade under a tongue. It can even find cell phones through walls. And it’s having an effect.

“Now we are noticing that once we come into certain areas of the facility, a lot of contraband is essentially being thrown out,” says corrections officer Antonio Cooper.

The catalyst for this chance was nothing less than a scandal involving the Black Guerilla Family gang.

According to Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, a situation arose where “inmates in the local prison call the shots on the streets.”

Locked up BGF leaders like Tavon White, using phones and drugs smuggled in by corrections officers, were intimidating witnesses and laundering money. Dozens were convicted and cell phone jamming gear was installed.

“Those pieces of equipment cost three to four million dollars per building, but this is portable everywhere and it tells us specifically where a cell phone might be,” says correctional services secretary Stephen Moyer.

All for a fraction of the cost of the phone jammers. It’s costing the state less than $2 million to install the portable scanners in all 24 of the state’s correctional facilities.

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