What happens when CSC seizes contraband?
- Kate Mitchell
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Correctional Service Canada (“CSC”) staff members (or medical practioners in the case of body cavity searches) can seize contraband or evidence related to a disciplinary or criminal offence. In addition, employees of community-based residential facilities who conduct authorized searches may seize evidence of a violation of a prisoner’s release conditions.
The person from whom the item is seized is supposed to be issued a receipt. Seized items are to be submitted to the Warden or the person in charge of the community-based residential facility, as the case may be.
The person who conducts the search may be required to prepare a report. These reports can be accessed, on request, by the person to whom the search relates or from whom an item is seized. These reports are retained for at least two years following the date of the search.
If an item is seized during a search, CSC is supposed to notify the owner (if known) in writing as soon as practicable. CSC can hold or transfer to police or a court anything that is required as evidence in a disciplinary or criminal proceeding, until the conclusion of the proceeding.
A seized item is to be returned to its owner if:
- it is no longer required as evidence in a disciplinary or criminal proceeding
- the item has not been forfeited;
- the item is within the control of the Service;
- the owner requests that the item be returned to the owner within 30 days after being notified of the seizure;
- possession of the item would be lawful; and
- in the case of an owner who is an inmate, possession of the item by the inmate would not constitute possession of contraband or an unauthorized item.
In some cases, an item may be lawful outside a prison but considered unauthorized/contraband within the prison. In those cases, the Warden may order that the prisoner be given a reasonable opportunity to make arrangements for the disposal or safe-keeping outside the prison of the item.
An item can be deemed forfeit for a number of reasons, including if the Service does not know the owner, the owner has not applied for the item’s return within 30 days of being notified of the seizure, possession of the item would be unlawful, arrangements have not been made for disposal or safekeeping of the item outside of the prison (in cases where possession would be legal outside of a prison), or the item is contraband and the prisoner has been found guilty of a disciplinary offence in relation to it.
If an item is deemed forfeit by virtue of the item being contraband/unauthorized and a prisoner having been found guilty of a disciplinary offence related to it, a Warden or designated staff member may be able to cancel the forfeiture. This applies in very narrow circumstances though, and the exact criteria to be applied depend on whether the owner is a prisoner. In both cases, an application for return the property must be made within 30 days of the forfeiture of the item.