Cell searches

Key Elements

In all penitentiaries authorities must sometimes conduct searches of either some of the premises or all of the premises with a view to maintaining order and security and, more specifically, to prevent prison breaks or to put an end to illegal possession and trafficking of banned products and objects. Cell and dormitory searches are part of the surveillance system.

However, cell searches are particular in that they, on the contrary to other places being searched, are carried out in the only areas where detainees have a semblance of privacy.
Legal and procedural safeguards must be in place to prevent any abuse in cell searches.  On one hand, safeguards must be instituted to prevent the practice of systematic and discriminatory searches and, on the other hand, damaging detainees’ property. In addition, these safeguards are in place to ensure that cell searches take place in a calm and respectful manner in order to avoid any violence.
Cell searches must be carried out by trained and easily identifiable personnel. Searches should not be conducted by someone from outside the institution.

Cell searches should take place with the detainee concerned present or, in the case of a dormitory or large cell, with at least one occupant present.