In the United States, citizens are immune from unlawful search and seizure due to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Unfortunately, thanks to laws like the Patriot Act, those protections aren’t as strong as they used to be, but that’s a topic for another day.
When you go to jail, you lose all your constitutional rights, except religious freedom, because that right was fought in court and granted by the US Supreme Court.
When you’re in prison, you’re not protected by the Fourth Amendment, which means that prison guards can walk into your cell at any time of day or night and tear it apart in search of contraband.
Which leads to today’s blog post: How Often Do Prison Guards Search Cells?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- What happens when a police officer searches a prisoner’s cell?
- What is “Goon Squad”?
What happens when a police officer searches a prisoner’s cell?
When police search prisoners’ cells, they’re looking for what they call “contraband”. This can be anything from T-shirts not listed on the prisoner’s personal property inventory to tobacco products.
Contraband is any item that prisoners are not allowed to have inside the prison, meaning it is not issued by the state or purchased from the canteen. Contraband can also be items traded by prisoners but not legally purchased, as each property item (clothes, electronics, etc.) is documented by the prison property coordinator.
If your personal property inventory shows that you purchased two T-shirts and you have three in your locker, one of the T-shirts is prohibited and will be confiscated. Contraband may also be items that are not used as intended. For example, the Pop Pie box is the perfect size for stamps and pens, but that’s not its intended use. So, if you have a flan box with anything other than flan in it, it’s contraband and will be taken away.
Another good example of contraband is a broken razor. We can buy a single-blade handle-proof razor from the cafeteria, but if it’s not pristine in your locker, it’s contraband.
You must leave the room and wait outside while officers search your cell. Wearing gloves, the officer would take an inventory of the inmate’s personal possessions, empty every section of the inmate’s locker, throw away the mattress, and search every inch of the cell for hiding places.
According to the officers, when they’re done searching, all of the inmate’s belongings could end up piled up in the middle of the room, and it’s the inmate’s responsibility to clean up and put everything back where it belonged.
If you are caught with prohibited items, you will be notified of a conduct violation. And, based on what they found, the prisoner may end up falling into the hole.
Oh, and to answer today’s question, officers can search an inmate’s cell whenever they want. Typically, prisoners are searched at least once a quarter, but sometimes it may be weekly. It really just depends on the facility.
What is “Goon Squad”?
In Missouri, there was a special tactical unit that the inmates called “The Goon Squad,” but I never knew what their official name was. Dressed in black jumpsuits, helmets and tactical gloves, this particular group of officers would surprise the camp’s inmates once a year by raiding cells.
You never know when they’re coming, but when they do it’s the worst day of the year. These “officers” would enter cells and destroy everything they could find, under the pretext of “looking for drugs.”
The three “Goon Squads” I went through were my worst three days in jail. When you are a prisoner, everything is taken from you. So, when you’re in there, some of the things that you manage to gain are really important. Whether it’s a t-shirt or a book, it’s heartbreaking to have one of your personal items destroyed.
I’m sure other states and the FBI use some sort of “Goon Squad” in their facilities, but the public won’t be able to find any information on that.
Do you think prisoners’ property should be respected? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Fourth Amendment - Prison Cells: Is There A Right to Privacy? The Secret World Of investigating Prison Deaths In Missouri