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The Federal Bureau of Prisons is examining a new technology for its security details, a millimeter wave scanner, designed to screen visitors, internees and prison employees.
All incoming persons currently undergo physical examination, but the new scanner will enable screening for contrabands rapidly and without requiring any intrusive checks. The scanner meets international safety criteria, does not pose any risk to children, pregnant women or people with medical implants.
According to a report in International Internal Security, the new scanner is being tested in trial mode in six federal prisons, where the new technology is replacing physical examinations.
Millimeter wave scanners are being used in numerous airports worldwide. In the US, the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) is using 740 of these devices in 160 airports across the country.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons ruled that first, all visitors and employees be advised on the new method prior to implementation. The reason being, that at the time, when millimeter wave scanner were first introduced in airports, it became apparent the millimeter waves create an image of the human body, which many in the US perceived as invasive and in breach of their liberties. Therefore, the TSA decided the millimeter wave scanner device operators will not see the scanned image in full. Rather, they will be projected a “clean scanned image” using another element, which will also alert about “a problematic scanned image”, allowing the operator to decide on the next course in the screening process.
Millimeter waves have a wave length of 1 to 10 millimeters, which are the best waves for detecting concealed objects, weapons or contraband upon someone’s entry in the airport or a secured building.
How does a millimeter wave scanner work?
The device has two rotating transmitters which emit millimeter waves. When the person being screened is standing in the scanner, the energy carried over the millimeter waves, which passes through clothing, is picked up by two receivers which obtain the data from the subject’s body, create an image and send it to the operator’s screen.
Based on current knowledge, millimeter wave radiation (at the intensity applied by the devices) causes no radiation damage to the human body.