Body searches

Key Elements

In prison, it is sometimes necessary, for security reasons, to conduct body searches of detainees. The aim of body searches is to avoid bringing in and trafficking banned or dangerous substances and objects (e.g. weapons, drugs, or mobile phones).

There are three types of body searches:

• frisking (or pat-down): the detainee remains dressed;
• visual inspections: the detainee must undress and is subject to a visual inspection, without physical contact;
• intimate body cavity searches: the detainee is subjected to a physical examination of their body cavities (anus, vagina). Progressive standards recommend that such searches be prohibited by law. While these searches are not strictly prohibited, they should only be performed by trained and authorized doctors.

Due to their intrusive nature, all body searches can be degrading, even humiliating. They should therefore be used only when strictly necessary to maintain order or security in the prison for the person themselves and for other detainees and staff. Finally, searches must be conducted in a manner that is respectful of the detainee’s dignity.