The laws and regulations governing searches of prisoners and cells shall be in accordance with obligations under international law and shall take into account international standards and norms, keeping in mind the need to ensure security in the prison. Searches shall be conducted in a manner that is respectful of the inherent human dignity and privacy of the individual being searched, as well as the principles of proportionality, legality and necessity.
Searches shall not be used to harass, intimidate or unnecessarily intrude upon a prisoner’s privacy. For the purpose of accountability, the prison administration shall keep appropriate records of searches, in particular strip and body cavity searches and searches of cells, as well as the reasons for the searches, the identities of those who conducted them and any results of the searches.
1. Intrusive searches, including strip and body cavity searches, should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary. Prison administrations shall be encouraged to develop and use appropriate alternatives to intrusive searches. Intrusive searches shall be conducted in private and by trained staff of the same sex as the prisoner.
2. Body cavity searches shall be conducted only by qualified health-care professionals other than those primarily responsible for the care of the prisoner or, at a minimum, by staff appropriately trained by a medical professional in standards of hygiene, health and safety.
Intrusive searches, including strip and body cavity searches, should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary. Prison administrations shall be encouraged to develop and use appropriate alternatives to intrusive searches. Intrusive searches shall be conducted in private and by trained staff of the same sex as the prisoner.
Prisoners shall have access to, or be allowed to keep in their possession without access by the prison administration, documents relating to their legal proceedings.
Search and entry procedures for visitors shall not be degrading and shall be governed by principles at least as protective as those outlined in rules 50 to 52. Body cavity searches should be avoided and should not be applied to children.
Effective measures shall be taken to ensure that women prisoners‟ dignity and respect are protected during personal searches, which shall only be carried out by women staff who have been properly trained in appropriate sear ching methods and in accordance with established procedures.
Alternative screening methods, such as scans, shall be developed to replace strip searches and invasive body searches, in order to avoid the harmful psychological and possible physical impact of invasive body searches.
Prison staff shall demonstrate competence, professionalism and sensitivity and shall preserve respect and dignity when searching both children in prison with their mother and children visiting prisoners.
Body searches, in particular strip and invasive body searches, are common practices and can constitute ill-treatment when conducted in a disproportionate, humiliating or discriminatory manner. Inappropriate touching and handling amounting to sexual harassment during searches is common, as are routine vaginal examinations of women charged with drug offences. These practices have a disproportionate impact on women, particularly when conducted by male guards. The punishment of women who refuse to undergo strip and invasive searches, for instance by placing them in isolation or revoking visitation privileges, is also common. When conducted for a prohibited purpose or for any reason based on discrimination and leading to severe pain or suffering, strip and invasive body searches amount to torture.
Humiliating and invasive body searches may constitute torture or ill-treatment, particularly for transgender detainees. In States where homosexuality is criminalized, men suspected of same-sex conduct are subject to non-consensual anal examinations intended to obtain physical evidence of homosexuality, a practice that is medically worthless and amounts to torture or ill-treatment (CAT/C/CR/29/4).
With regard to women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in detention, the Special Rapporteur calls on all States to:
[...] (j) Ensure that strip and invasive body searches are conducted only when necessary and appropriate, by staff of the same gender with sufficient medical knowledge and skill to perform the search safely and respect the individual’s privacy and dignity and in two steps (to ensure that the detainee is never fully unclothed), and to prohibit body searches of females by male staff; [...]
(u) Guarantee all transgender detainees the choice of being searched by male or female officers;
1. There shall be detailed procedures which staff have to follow when searching:
a. all places where prisoners live, work and congregate;
c. visitors and their possessions; and
The situations in which such searches are necessary and their nature shall be defined by national law.
Staff shall be trained to carry out these searches in such a way as to detect and prevent any attempt to escape or to hide contraband, while at the same time respecting the dignity of those being searched and their personal possessions.
Persons being searched shall not be humiliated by the searching process.
Persons shall only be searched by staff of the same gender.
There shall be no internal physical searches of prisoners’ bodies by prison staff.
An intimate examination related to a search may be conducted by a medical practitioner only.
Prisoners shall be present when their personal property is being searched unless investigating techniques or the potential threat to staff prohibit this.
The obligation to protect security and safety shall be balanced against the privacy of visitors.
Procedures for controlling professional visitors, such as legal representatives, social workers and medical practitioners, etc., shall be the subject of consultation with their professional bodies to ensure a balance between security and safety, and the right of confidential professional access.
Whenever bodily searches, inspections of installations and organizational measures of places of deprivation of liberty are permitted by law, they shall comply with criteria of necessity, reasonableness and proportionality.
Bodily searches of persons deprived of liberty and visitors to places of deprivation of liberty shall be carried out under adequate sanitary conditions by qualified personnel of the same sex, and shall be compatible with human dignity and respect for fundamental rights. In line with the foregoing, Member States shall employ alternative means through technological equipment and procedures, or other appropriate methods.
Intrusive vaginal or anal searches shall be forbidden by law.
The inspections or searches in units or installations of places of deprivation of liberty shall be carried out by the competent authorities, in accordance with a properly established procedure and with respect for the rights of persons deprived of liberty.
Mixed gender staffing is another safeguard against ill-treatment in places of detention, in particular where juveniles are concerned. The presence of both male and female staff can have a beneficial effect in terms of both the custodial ethos and in fostering a degree of normality in a place of detention. Mixed gender staffing also allows for appropriate staff deployment when carrying out gender sensitive tasks, such as searches. In this respect, the CPT wishes to stress that, regardless of their age, persons deprived of their liberty should only be searched by staff of the same gender and that any search which requires an inmate to undress should be conducted out of the sight of custodial staff of the opposite gender; these principles apply a fortiori in respect of juveniles.
A prison doctor acts as a patient's personal doctor. Consequently, in the interests of safeguarding the doctor/patient relationship, he should not be asked to certify that a prisoner is fit to undergo punishment. Nor should he carry out any body searches or examinations requested by an authority, except in an emergency when no other doctor can be called in.
b. Safeguards for arrest and detention
If arrest, custody and pre-trial detention is absolutely necessary, women and girls shall:
i. Only be searched by female law enforcement officials, and in a manner that accords with women‘s or girls’ dignity.