Human dignity and privacy: Ensuring compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules during body searches

Nelson Mandela once said, “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.”

Today, society is more aware of the criminal justice system and human rights and is appalled at some of the outdated measures taken inside some prisons; of inhuman and humiliating practices which are viewed now as obsolete and cruel.

Yet still today, in some prisons there is systemic mistreatment of prisoners.

‘The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners’ initially adopted by the First UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders in 1955 remained unchanged until 2015.

In December 2015 the UN General Assembly voted unanimously to adopt revised rules to be known as ‘The Nelson Mandela Rules’- NMR – (A/RES/70/175) to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison.

These revised rules on the physical searching of prisoners and cells now reflect current societal views.


ODSecurity body scanner


The summary of the amended Rules 50-53, states that ‘Procedures for searches must be laid down in law or regulations, and any decision on whether to search should consider whether it is necessary and proportionate. Search procedures must respect the dignity and privacy of the prisoner and not be used to harass or intimidate. Invasive body searches should be the last resort, and a record should be made of the findings of each search. Searches of visitors, at a minimum, must be subject to the same safeguards as searches of prisoners and take account of their status as non-prisoners.’

A modern and forward-thinking company, ODSecurity, is confident that their SOTER RS full-body scanner not only meets the Nelson Mandela Rules but, in some cases, exceeds them.

The SOTER RS full-body scanner will detect ANY contraband hidden on or even inside a fully clothed person, therefore negating the need for the humiliating and degrading strip search. The SOTER RS provides the highest quality full body image revealing all hidden contraband. Rule 50 is fully met! “Searches shall be conducted in a manner that is respectful of the inherent human dignity and privacy of the individual being searched.”  

The SOTER RS is equipped with a database where all scanning data is recorded, stored and backed up. It documents the details of the person being scanned, when and by whom they were scanned, the results and the physical images. Additionally, it registers the cumulative radiation of any individual, ensuring that each prison is well within safety limits. The Central Database complies with and exceeds Rule 51 “For the purpose of accountability, the prison administration shall keep appropriate records of searches, in particular strip and body cavity searches and searches of cells, as well as the reasons for the searches, the identities of those who conducted them and any results of the searches.”

Rule 52 states, “Prison administrations shall be encouraged to develop and use appropriate alternatives to intrusive searches.” ODSecurity has been active within the Correction and Prison Markets for some 14 years, and are a trusted supplier to detention centres, airport police and customs facilities worldwide.

The United Nations “encourages the Member States to endeavour to improve conditions in detention, consistent with the Nelson Mandela Rules”, and ODSecurity helps to do just that! 




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