You must give inmates access to drinking water in a dry cell!

If you don’t, they could die from dehydration.


“Dry cells” are those which do not have any plumbing facilities (such as a toilet or shower). They can also be cells which have plumbing facilities but the water has been shut off.


If a person is suspected of having swallowed contraband, it may be appropriate to “dry cell” them until the contraband can be retrieved. For example, if the person were in the general population, they could expel a balloon of drugs then flush it down the toilet (destroying the evidence) or worse, distribute the drugs to others. In this way, dry cells can help correctional facilities intercept contraband which is smuggled in a person’s stomach. Once the contraband is retrieved, the person is usually returned to the general population.


Another reason someone may be “dry celled” is because they are due for a urine drug screen. In this situation, a dry cell allows the person to use the toilet but not flush it – so the urine can be collected without a “dirty” sample being flushed.


There may also be medical reasons for dry celling a person but this measure should be used as a last resort. For example, if the person consistently reports blood in their stool and cannot remember not to flush, it may be appropriate to dry cell them so that a stool sample can be collected.


If your facility has a policy and procedure on dry cells, please review it to make sure inmates in dry cells have access to drinking water. If you don’t have a policy and procedure on dry cells, please consider implementing one that includes a way to measure what they are drinking. Offering a bottle, pitcher, or cup of water to keep in the cell is an easy way to keep track of what they are drinking.


You must give inmates access to drinking water in a dry cell!


All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only. The information presented is not intended to establish a standard of medical care. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current, and is subject to change without notice.