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Searches and drug testing


Each prisoner is personally searched on entering prison or moving from one part of a prison to another [see Correctional Services Act 1982 (SA) s 37(1)(a)] and they or their belongings can also be searched when:

  • there is reasonable cause to suspect that the prisoner has a prohibited item in their possession [s 37(1)(c)];
  • for the purpose of detecting prohibited items all prisoners or randomly selected prisoners are searched [s 37(1a)]; or
  • the prisoner is required to provide a biological sample for analysis [s 37(1)(c)].

The Act sets out strict rules as to how body searches must be carried out, particularly where the prisoner is required to strip. Searches must be carried out quickly, and undue humiliation of the prisoner must be avoided [see s 37(5)].

Drug testing

Each prisoner can be required to undergo drug testing on entering prison or returning to prison following an absence [see Correctional Services Act 1982 (SA) ss37AA(1)(a) and (b)]. Prisoners can also be required to undergo drug testing when:

  • there is reasonable cause to suspect that the prisoner has unlawfully used a drug [s 37AA(1a)(a)] ; or
  • for the purpose of determining unlawful drug use all prisoners or randomly selected prisoners are tested [s 37AA(1)(d)]; or
  • the Chief Executive of the Department otherwise thinks fit [s 37AA(1)(e)].

The penalties for failing to submit or comply with all reasonable directions in relation to drug testing can be quite severe including loss of privileges for up to six months, exclusion from work for up to 84 days and a fine of up to $150 [see ss 43(2), 44(2) and Correctional Services Regulations 2016 (SA) reg 38(5)]. A prisoner has a limited right of appeal, see Hearings and inquiries.

The Minister must publish any rules relating to drug and alcohol testing of prisoners (in such manner as the Minister thinks fit) and must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that the rules are made known to any prisoner who is illiterate, or whose principal language is not the English language. (s 83(4) of the Act).

Searches and drug testing  :  Last Revised: Mon May 11th 2020
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.