Update from Tabor Correctional: On Cell Searches

book-banThe following is an update about cell searches written by a prisoner at Tabor CI. Other conditions recently documented by prisoners at the facility include uncooked food, guards going through prisoners’ mail and legal correspondence, and emergency calls from sick or injured prisoners going unheeded. This last item often results in prisoners desperately banging on cell doors to receive help, which in turn results in not a nurse visit but a cell extraction team armed with mace and clubs, and often an infraction that can get a prisoner landed on solitary. 

There’s probably nothing pleasant about Tabor Correctional Institution, certainly not the searches. The basic routine search of an inmate’s cell, property, and person begins with a frisk search. Theyn the inmate’s hands are cuffed behind his back and he is made to stand against the wall to the side of his cell-door where he cannot observe the search.

If theinmate objects to not being permitted to observe the seach, he may be ordered to stand facing the wall. If he objects further, he may soon thereafter be standing behind a locked door in segregation.

If the inmate complies, the search continues with one officer standing in the cell doorway recording the items confiscated by a second officer who conducts the actual search. After the cell and all its contents are searched, and all the contraband secured, the inmate is strip-searched, with spread cheeks, the squat and cough and all. If nothing more than non-threatening contraband is found, the search is complete and the inmate is “free” to clean up the mess made of his property and cell.

Most searches at Tabor don’t require much time, because for the most part inmates here don’t possess much personal property. They don’t because if Tabor CI is about anything, it is about stripping an inmate of his property.

Processing at Tabor is modeled upon the military tactic of shock and awe; it’s traumatic for most inmates who suffer it, and it’s near fatal for some. Immediately upon disembarking from the transfer bus, the inmate is stripped of any belt, cap, coat, or oversirt even before he enters the institution, and he is met by officers who are rude, abusive, and disrespectful. The intent is to shock the submissive and awe the strong-willed into dumbfounded compliance. Any defiance is crushed.

Once inside, the inmate is strip-searched and then sized and fitted in clothing that “fits” according to the standards of Tabor CI. For many inmates that means clothing that is smaller and closer-fitting than he’d normally wear.

Next, and lastly, is the search and confiscation of personal property. Oncce at the counter where the search will be conducted, the inmate is shown “the list”–a large metal sign that describes the property an inmate is permitted to possess at Tabor, and it’s a short one. It’s actually a malicious interpretation of the “partial list of permitted property” found in chapter F of Division of Prisons Policy and Procedure. It’s a corruption because it’s misinterpreted at Tabor to be a denitive list, as an invincible boundary.

The list allows 5 books, 5 magazines, 15 personal letters, 20 photographs, and legal papers. If something is in an inmate’s property, and it is paper, it must be one of those. For hygiene, the list allows one each of most items, two each of a few, only items sold in the canteen, and no powders or baby oil. For the most part, this is all that is allowed.

At Tabor CI, officers boast that an inmate may arrive at Tabor with the DOP-allowed three standard shipping bags of personal property, but he will leave with only one when they’re finished throwing away his belongings. And they mean it.


  1. Robin zjohnson

    OMG if this is true then the TCI needs to correct themselves before working with the inmates.

  2. Nate

    I spent a year in TCI from May 2012-May 2013. I was subject to numerous cell searches and I was always permitted to watch. The only times I was not allowed was during cell block shake downs. The vast majority of the CO’s are absolute power hungry morons who are desperate to impress their superiors and move up the ladder by any means necessary. There were, however, a select few if them that actually cared to try and help out and not just exercise their power at any given moment. Tabor city was one of the worst experiences of my life. But also one that I’m very thankful as it showed me so much about the world in such a wide range of ways that would have taken me years, if not decades, to get without it. Does TCI need to be investigated by an unbiased third party? Absolutely. Will it ever happen or improve? Doubtful. I was almost attacked by three CO’s who radioed the control booth and told them to turn off the cameras in the room we were in behind the large visitation room where you get strip searched in after a visit. After the cameras were off they backed me into the corner and threatened in there exact words that I was about to get an ‘ass cooking’. Whatever that means. I couldnt make that up if I had to. Nothing happened, as they were about as intelligent as a brick and I was able to talk them down and make their deflated egos feel better. Anyway, tabor can be a viscous place where if the numerous murdering inmates with life sentences don’t get you, the guards very well may.

    1. Liza

      Nate- My bf just got to TCI. I haven’t received a call from him or anything yet and its been almost a week. Ive sent him two letters but idk if he got them. I am worried because he is not in prison for anything violent or anything serious really. (drug related) He is six and a half hours away from me and we have two small children (18 months and 3 months) I don’t know why they would transfer him to a place like this. Can you please let me know any helpful information you have about this place and anyway I can help to get him closer to his family so we are able to visit? I will visit him either way it’s just I have two kids that need to see their father on a regular basis and him being over 6 hours away is ridiculous. I would have to go stay in a hotel overnight just to be able to see him for an hour.

  3. Doan Kluttz

    How do they expect to rehabilitate an inmate if all they do is bring them down. I have heard bad things about Tabor CI. I know that there are some inmates in there that are trouble makers but not all. They should make them want to do better instead of be little ing them. That causes a lot of them to be worse when they get out and they end up right back in.

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