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As the opioid epidemic soars, local jails turn to body scanners to keep drugs out

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- As the opioid epidemic soars, the flow of drugs into local jails is increasing and local sheriffs say they're doing everything they can to try to stop it.

"Looks like 32 bags of heroin on one person," Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard told CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit while showing her a picture of the contraband.

The dime sized bags of heroin, along with several pills, were all found inside the body of an inmate entering the Chesterfield jail.

"All this was found during a strip search of the individual's buttocks," Leonard said.

If deputies had not found the drugs during the search, Leonard shudders to think of what might have happened.

"If any of the heroin was laced with fentanyl it could have been a fatal dose, and it could have killed 48 inmates, and that's our concern when it comes to the back of the jail," Leonard said.

But, he knows the human eye is imperfect when it comes to ferreting out an increasing amount of contraband inmates bring into the jail inside their bodies.

"Especially for people who swallow and conceal things in their stomach, that will never be determined through a normal strip search," Leonard said.

Take for example, Brandy Hertsch, who admitted to us she stuffed drugs inside of herself on multiple occasions when entering jail.

"I had actually overdosed at my house, and there was paramedics all in the bathroom, and I was like I have to use the bathroom, and they went out, I shoved a bag up inside of me, and I brought it in," Hertsch said.

Now, Hertsch said she is committed to getting clean, and she wants drugs kept out of jail.

"If you're here to get better, and people bring it in, we're drug addicts, it's hard, it's tempting," Hertsch said.

Brandy Hertsch

And, it should soon get harder because Chesterfield will get a more than $100,000 body scanner starting July 1.

Henrico County already has a scanner.

They got it in August of 2016.

"This object right here was in her pelvic region, it was a pill bottle she had placed inside of her," Captain Sherie Latham said while pointing to a body scan taken in March of an inmate.

Latham said the machine is invaluable.

So far, they've found 43 drugs inside inmates using the scanner, and while they may not be happy at the time, at the end of the day it opens them and others up to rehab.

"If they have drugs up there it's kind of hindering their recovery and their chance," Latham said.

Latham said the body scanner also acts as a deterrent because when inmates see the scanner, they will just go ahead and own up to what they've got on them, or not bring it at all.