An X-ray machine to detect drugs has been installed at a remand centre, much to the relief of prison officers who previously had to do manual rectum searches of the inmates.
"The manual process in the past was quite noxious," said Commissioner of Correctional Services Sin Yat-kin.
"Now our colleagues do not need to carry out such noxious work after the process is replaced by the machine."
The Correctional Services Department bought the HK$2.56 million body scanner from the Netherlands last year.
It was put into use at Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre last month, after it proved itself by finding drugs in three out of 1,451 inmates during a trial period, the department said.
The machine was more effective in detecting drugs than a rectum search by hand, Sin said. It can scan for drugs in just 13 to 15 seconds, just a little slower that the manual search.
Consent is always obtained from the inmates before each scan, he said.
Sin said the department planned to buy three more detectors and install them in the Pik Uk and Lo Wu prisons, and the Tai Lam women's prison next year.
Last year, there were 158 cases of drugs found in all the city's prisons, an increase of 26 per cent from 2011.
There were 113 cases of drugs, mainly heroin, found inside inmates' bodies.
This was an increase of 30 per cent from the year before.
Sin also said the department was now building a urine collection centre in Lai Chi Kok to centralise the process.
Last year two of the department's former rehabilitation officers were sentenced to three months' jail for falsifying urine samples taken from released drug offenders.
Sin said the department had also transformed Tung Tau Correctional Institution into a smoke-free prison, by admitting only non-smoking men.
The change came after the institution found out last year that 94 per cent of all the city's male inmates smoked.