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Contraband Detection Devices, What the Market Has to Offer

A new report summarizes vendor-provided information.
Date Published
July 11, 2017

Contraband presents a safety and health risk to both staff and incarcerated persons in correctional facilities throughout the country. Contraband is both smuggled into facilities and improvised in the facilities themselves from materials that are not in and of themselves contraband (e.g., dining utensils or woodshop scraps turned into weapons).

The National Criminal Justice Technology Research, Test, and Evaluation Center, which is sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, recently conducted a market survey of commercial contraband detection technologies to provide corrections officials with an overview of the technologies that are available to them to detect contraband. The survey also provides corrections officials a brief insight into technologies that may be available to them in the future. The Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at the Johns Hopkins University hosts the Center.

A recently published report, A Market Survey on Contraband Detection Technologies, presents the results of that survey, summarizing and presenting information provided by 33 commercial vendors on 103 different products. The report does not evaluate or rank technologies; nor does it express opinions regarding the quality of these technologies. Rather it compares them based on information collected via multiple avenues including information solicited from and provided by the vendor.

The data contained in the report is what was available at the time of the survey. Corrections administrators looking to purchase contraband detection technologies addressed in the report should contact the relevant vendors for up-to-date information.

Summary tables outlining the availability of specific types of products are included in Chapter 4, whereas Chapter 5 presents individual product summaries on each of the 103 products. Finally, Chapter 6 briefly examines technologies that could play a role in detecting contraband in the future.

The data presented in Chapter 5 is divided into three general categories:

  • Person-borne detection — technologies used to find contraband concealed on a person, including within body cavities, and that include mainly handheld and walkthrough devices.
  • Vehicle-borne detection — technologies that detect contraband concealed in cars and trucks that come onto correctional facility grounds and include camera systems, visual search aids, and drive-through systems.
  • Environmental detection — technologies that detect contraband hidden, for example, in walls and furniture.

Collecting the Data

The research team began with a literature review that included several published market surveys specific to a particular technology, such as cell phone detection. After team members gained a general understanding of available products and the concepts of operation and features that are most important to corrections officials, they developed a request for information (RFI) published in the Federal Register. Some vendors responded to the RFI, and information on others was derived from searches of their websites.

About This Article

The work described in this article was supported by NIJ cooperative agreement number 2013-MU-CX-K111, awarded by NIJ to The National Criminal Justice Technology Research, Test, and Evaluation Center, which is operated by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

This article is based on the report A Market Survey on Contraband Detection Technologies (pdf, 401 pages) by Rebecca Koslover, Vivian Hung, Steven Babin, and Amber Mills.

Date Published: July 11, 2017