What counts as contraband in prison?
- Kate Mitchell
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According to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, contraband includes:
(a) an intoxicant,
(b) a weapon or a component thereof, ammunition for a weapon, and anything that is designed to kill, injure or disable a person or that is altered so as to be capable of killing, injuring or disabling a person, when possessed without prior authorization,
(c) an explosive or a bomb or a component thereof,
(d) currency over any applicable prescribed limit, when possessed without prior authorization, and
(e) any item not described in paragraphs (a) to (d) that could jeopardize the security of a penitentiary or the safety of persons, when that item is possessed without prior authorization; (objets interdits)
This definition is incredibly broad. Many institutions have lists of prohibited items that include everything from make up to keys to children’s toys. These lists are generally posted in the lobby and/or near the entrance of the visiting area.
An inmate who has or deals in contraband can be charged in the prison’s disciplinary court. Visitors, inmates, and staff can also face criminal charges if they are on prison grounds with certain kinds of contraband, take any kind of contraband past the visitor control point, or give contraband to an inmate. Additionally, visitors who are found with contraband may be denied visits, and any incidents involving contraband may be recorded in offenders’ files and impact decisions related to private family visits, parole, etc.
Given the potential consequences for taking in something classified as contraband (even if the visitor didn’t know it was contraband), visitors should always ask if they are uncertain whether items in their possession can be taken into visits. Visitors may be asked to leave items in their car, and many prisons also have lockers that can be used (typically for a quarter or loonie).