ALBANY, N.Y. – A security chair that scans the body cavities of inmates has led to a sharp drop in the number of prison attacks involving weapons, state correction officials said.

Known as the Body Orifice Security Scanner, the chair has been credited with a 58 percent drop in attacks between 2000 and 2002, according to the state Department of Correctional Services.

Since introducing the $2,800 BOSS chair three years ago, it has been phased in gradually at maximum- and medium-security prisons throughout New York.

From 1996 to 1998, the prison system had an annual average of 1,649 cutting or stabbing incidents, compared with 688 attacks per year in the three years after the chair was first used. Assaults on prison staff by inmates with weapons dropped 37 percent, from an annual average of 19 between 1996 and 1998 to 12 per year from 2000 through 2002, according to the corrections department.

Prisoner attacks on other inmates fell 57 percent over the same period, from 1,224 per year to 529 per year.

Inmates are ordered by prison staff to sit in the chairs when they are suspected of hiding a weapon.

A flat metal detector scans the prisoner’s body cavities, sounding an alarm if a weapon is detected.

Robert Gangi, executive director of the prison-watchdog group Correctional Association of New York, called the chairs “a positive step” in prison procedure.

“Generally we support security measures that are effective and reduce physical contact between inmates and staff,” said Gangi, adding that manual body-cavity searches “are often a point a very serious friction between inmates and staff.”

Of 70 correctional facilities statewide, Flateau said the chair is used in all but 18. The majority of those not using the device are minimum-security facilities that have few weapons-related incidents.

Most maximum- and medium-security prisons have either one or two chairs, depending on the layout. Ulster Correctional Facility in Napanoch is the only prison with three chairs because most inmates enter into the state system through there, Flateau said.

AP-ES-10-16-03 1534EDT

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