Nixed TSA Scanners That Were Invasive and a Potential Health Hazard Are Now Being Used in Prisons

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 20 2014 6:42 PM

Nixed TSA Scanners That Were Invasive and a Potential Health Hazard Are Now Being Used in Prisons

tsa
TSA security lab director Susan Hallowell imaged with a Rapiscan backscatter x-ray.

Scan from Wikimedia Commons.

Last year Congress mandated the removal of OSI Rapiscan full body scanners from the Transportation Security Administration screening at airports because the company couldn't meet privacy standards. The images coming from the scanners weren't generic enough and depicted naked bodies too accurately. As a result, about 250 scanners, worth roughly $40 million, were removed. But they're not gone.

Local and state prisons have started using the scanners, according to the Federal Times, and 154 units are now in use in states like Iowa, Louisiana, and Virginia. Additionally, five scanners are being used in Arkansas sheriff's offices. Ninety-six scanners have not found homes yet.

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There are different privacy standards for prisoners than there are for average citizens, so Congress's concerns don't apply in jails. It's not clear whether the scanners could be used on prison staff or visitors. TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein told the Federal Times that, “TSA and the vendor are working with other government agencies interested in receiving the units for their security mission needs and for use in a different environment.”

Health safety concerns raised during congressional hearings about the radiation emitted by the scanners haven't been resolved. But rumors that TSA agents were mocking everyone's naked bodies turned out to be very, very true.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

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