Contraband in prisons is a legitimate concern for the Western Australian Department of Justice. Items like illicit drugs, weapons, and mobile phones can adversely affect the security, good order, and management of a facility as they present considerable dangers to prisoners, staff, and others.

The Department of Justice uses various methods to prevent contraband entering prisons and detecting contraband (particularly drugs) when it is already inside. One strategy is the authority to search people, places, and property. That authority means prisoners, visitors and staff can be searched. These searches can involve the use of hand held metal detectors, and drug detection dogs. People can also be patted down and strip searched. The latter is the most invasive.

Strip searches can be conducted in two ways. Most often, a half-and-half search is conducted. This involves the removal of half the person’s clothing, with those clothes put back on prior to the removal of the second half. The other method involves removing all the clothes at the one time. These full searches are permitted if it is believed that there is an attempt to conceal contraband during a half-and-half search. Full searches may also occur if the person is required to shower during reception, or put on a non-tear gown for placement under observation.

The policy requires two staff members, of the same gender as the person being searched, to be present for a strip search. There is an exception when the involvement of a medical practitioner is required. And, where possible, strip searches should not be conducted in the presence of other people.

Page last updated: April 10, 2019