SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH
Columbia, South Carolina

OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR OF MENTAL HEALTH DIRECTIVE NO. 775-93
(5-100)

TO:                All Organizational Components

SUBJECT:   Searches for Contraband/Stolen Property

I. Policy

It is the responsibility of each inpatient facility to take reasonable measures to prevent the introduction of contraband into its facility or the possession of contraband by its patients. (See SCDMH Directive 718-88, "Contraband Law.") It is also the responsibility of every organizational component to take reasonable measures to prevent the theft of Departmental property. (See the State Government Accountability and Reform Act of 1993.) One measure available to supervisory, clinical and law enforcement personnel to fulfill these responsibilities is the conduct of lawful searches. It is the policy of the Department that all searches conducted pursuant to this policy be carried out in a professional manner with due regard for the rights and dignity of the individual being searched.

II. Purpose

The purpose of this directive is to describe the circumstances in which it is permissible to conduct searches of patients, visitors and employees of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. This directive also requires each inpatient facility and the Office of Public Safety to develop procedures specific to their areas of jurisdiction to implement this directive. Community mental health centers may also develop policies and procedures to provide for searches of clients, visitors and employees in consultation with the Office of General Counsel.

III. Searches of Patients

1. Patients or their belongings may be routinely searched by either clinical staff or public safety officers pursuant to a uniformly applied facility policy designed to further the safety and security of the facility, e.g., upon admission, upon return from pass.

2. Patients or their belongings or their living area (to include storage areas) may be searched by eith6r clinical staff or public safety officers any time there is a reasonable suspicion that a particular patient is in possession of contraband or stolen property. Such suspicion Must be the result of facts or circumstances sufficient to give rise to an individualized suspicion, and the extent of the search should be reasonably related to the objective of the search.

3. In circumstances where the head of a treatment facility determines that there is a need, patients or their belongings may be searched by either clinical staff or public safety officers on a random basis using a systematic pattern which minimizes or eliminates staff discretion relative to which patients are searched. The extent and method of random searches should be reasonably related to the objective of such searches.

All patient searches must be carried out in accord with the requirements of the SCDMH Directive entitled, "Patient Rights Manual."

IV. Searches of Visitors

1. In general, visitors may not be searched absent their consent.

2. Other than visits by legal counsel, private physicians, the patient's clergy or advocates of Protection and Advocacy for the Handicapped, Inc., the director of a facility may make consent to search a prerequisite for visits to patients.

a. In cases of individualized concern, the reasons for imposing the requirement should be set forth in the medical record of the patient.

b. In cases where the nature of the facility or program creates a heightened concern for safety, and security (e.g., forensic unit or addictions programs), the facility director may promulgate a uniform requirement applicable to all visitors.

c. Visitors subject to a search requirement must be advised orally, in writing or both of the requirement and must sign a written Consent to Search form, a copy of which is attached to this Directive as Appendix A. Any visitor who declines to consent to a search will be escorted from the facility.

V. Searches of Employees.

1. Employees of the Department of Mental Health are deemed to have consented to searches of their person, belongings and vehicles as a condition of their employment. Should employees not wish to have their belongings or vehicle(s) searched, they are not to bring them onto Departmental property.

2. Employees or their belongings may be searched by either supervisory staff or public safety officers any time there is a reasonable suspicion that a particular employee is in possession of contraband or stolen property. Such suspicion must be the result of facts or circumstances sufficient to give rise to an individualized suspicion, and the extent of the search should be reasonably related to the objective of  the search.

3.  In circumstances where the head of a treatment facility or organizational component determines that there is a need, employees or their belongings or their vehicles may be searched by either supervisory staff or public safety officers on a random basis using a systematic pattern which minimizes or eliminates staff discretion relative to which employees or vehicles are searched. The extent or method of random searches should be reasonably related to the objective of such searches.

4.  An employee's office or desk may be searched by supervisory staff for the purpose of retrieving work-related materials or to investigate possible violations of work-place rules.

5.  Refusal to allow a routine search of clothing, belongings or vehicle, or refusal to stop for a routine search will subject the employee to disciplinary action.

VI. Implementation

1. Each inpatient facility shall develop procedures specific to their facility and the Office of Public Safety shall develop procedures and guidelines regarding searches of patients, visitors and employees, for its officers,

2. Every employee of the Department is to be provided a copy of this directive, The statement attached to this directive (Appendix B) is to be signed by each employee, and such other individuals, including students, trainees and volunteers, who are regularly provided access to inpatient facilities. The Division of Human Resource Services is charged with this responsibility and shall file the statement in the employee's personnel folder.

3. Each inpatient facility shall provide the patients of the facility information concerning their facility policy governing searches of patients and visitors as part of patient orientation.

4.  In the event a community mental health center develops a policy and procedure pursuant to this directive, it shall provide information concerning such policy to its employees and others subject to such policy.

This directive supplements SCDMH Directive No. 718-88, "Contraband Law."

 

                                                                                        bevilacqua1.GIF (3871 bytes)
                                                                                                 Joseph J. Bevilacqua, Ph.D.
                                                                                                                               Director

Date: 10-15-93


APPENDIX A
Visitor Consent to Search Form

APPENDIX B
Employee, Student, Trainee and Volunteer
Consent to Search Form