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Native prisoners whose clothes were forcibly removed during a strip search had violated her human rights, the report states

Native prisoners whose clothes were forcibly removed during a strip search had violated her human rights, the report states

A report of an incident in Canberra’s prison where a native woman was forcibly examined has found that she had violated her human rights.

The 37-year-old woman was held down and had her clothes removed or cut off during an incident at Canberra’s Alexander Maconochie Center (AMC) earlier this year.

She wrote a letter describing the incident in which she said she felt “absolute fear and shame”.

Prison Inspector Neil McAllister on Thursday released a report in which he described the incident as “degrading and traumatic” and pledged to implement two body scanners to avoid resorting to strip searches in the future.

Recent data showed that over a period of months until earlier in the year, strip searches were conducted on native women twice as often as non-native women in Canberra prison.

Woman had suffered sexual assault before strip search

A snapshot of the population of Canberra’s prison showed that 40 percent of the women were indigenous.(

Kathleen Dyett: ABC News

)

In the letter the woman wrote about the incident, she said in the days before that she had been saddened to learn that she would not be able to attend her grandmother’s funeral, accompanied by officers, for logistical reasons.

She said she was then moved to the crisis support unit due to concerns about her well-being, and was placed in a cell before the strip examination took place.

“The female officers were in full force,” the woman wrote in her letter.

“There [sic] the intention was to remove all my clothes vigorously by cutting my clothes off. “

The woman said she had recently been sexually assaulted and the strip search had taken place in front of men in jail.

But the review stated that there was no reason to believe that any male prisoner was a witness to the strip search.

However, the report found that non-essential personnel, including men, were present during the “use of force” to search the woman.

McAllister’s report found that the strip search itself had been legal, but the attempt to forcibly remove the woman’s clothes was in breach of ACT human rights law.

The McAllister report found:

“ACT Correctional Services did not properly consider the human rights of the imprisoned A by making the decision to conduct a forced strip search.

‘The only thing they’re doing is traumatizing people again,’ says the community leader

Julie looks seriously into the camera.  She has light red and black hair.
Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO Julie Tongs called the incident “disgusting” and has called for an investigation into the entire AMC.(

ABC News: Greg Nelson

)

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, called for an investigation after the incident received media attention.

She said it was time for correctional services to reconsider how they treated inmates at AMC.

“They have to change the way they do things out there and stop being so punitive. All they do is traumatize people again,” she said.

Tongs said the incident showed that racism continues to plague the corrective system and that people should not be punished for suffering from mental illness.

“Absolute racism is a problem. It’s probably number one in prisons. And the punitive behavior and the disgusting, derogatory way in which staff have to talk to people,” she said.

She said a royal commission had been requested in the AMC.

“This can be any daughter or even son who has been exposed to this kind of behavior over the years.

“Drugs and alcohol and mental health do not discriminate, and unfortunately people do.”

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