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Home > AUSTRALIA > ‘Very traumatic’ strip search for female Canberra prisoners violated human rights law, finds | Native Australians

‘Very traumatic’ strip search for female Canberra prisoners violated human rights law, finds | Native Australians

The strip search of a female inmate inside a Canberra prison earlier this year violated the territory’s human rights law, according to a condemnatory review, which also found that ACT’s mandatory search policies had no legal basis.

The ACT Inspectorate of Correctional Services (ICS) on Thursday published the review of the strip search of a 37-year-old native prisoner in the prison in Alexander Maconochie earlier this year.

The search made headlines after The Guardian revealed the incident in January. The ACT government was given a court order to suppress footage showing prison guards forcibly examining the woman.

The Guardian previously reported that the woman was a survivor of sexual assault with a range of physical and mental problems, including a heart condition that required a pacemaker.

On the day of the search, she had been denied approval to attend her grandmother’s funeral “due to logistics” and began threatening to injure herself, according to the ICS report.

According to the inspector’s report, she was moved to the prison’s crisis support unit, where she refused to undergo a strip search. Footage reviewed in the study showed that the woman shouted “can not breathe” at various times while she was detained.

“During the use of force, there are up to 12 employees in the immediate vicinity, some occasionally entering the cell and others staying at the door or in the hallway outside the cell,” the report said.

“At least two of these employees are men. The use of force can also potentially be seen live on CCTV by staff at the CSU duty station, in the operating room and in the master control room ”.

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The report says that while the correctional officers held her down, the woman eventually agreed to comply with a search that took place in front of two female officers in a bathroom. For this reason, the ICS report found that the search did not take place in front of male officers.

The prisoner in a letter had claimed that she was also stripped naked by the guards given other male inmates.

The report was condemning the use of force during the search and policies that required mandatory strip searches of inmates entering the crisis support unit.

It found that the decision to use force to carry out the search was in the first instance “not a last resort as required” of the territory’s law of corrections and that it did not comply with the territory’s human rights law.

“There is no doubt that the use of force would have been a very traumatic event for [the woman]especially given her recent history of sexual assault, her persistent mental state and feelings of loss and grief that her grandmother suddenly died, ”the Thursday report said.

“Moreover, [the woman] had medical conditions concerning her heart and lung, which were known by [prison officers], and it is very likely that any risk of [her] health by using force and restraining her was significantly increased because of these conditions.

“We note that the decision to conduct a forced strip search was not an approach that all employees were completely confident in. This incident has been stressful for some employees involved. ”

ICS’s Neil McAllister found that the decision to carry out the search was lawful because staff had a “reasonable suspicion” that the woman was “hiding an” seizing item “that could be used to harm herself or others”. But he found the decision to conduct a coercive investigation “inconsistent” with the area’s own human rights law.

The report stated that although corrections were not explicitly required of staff to consider an effort human rights when conducting a coercive investigation, it was “unforgivable” that it was not “governed by policy and procedure”.

“The decision to conduct a compulsory investigation and the events that followed … was an unreasonable restriction of [the woman’s] human rights, ”the report found.

“This conclusion has been reached due to [the woman’s] additional vulnerabilities, including her mental and physical health condition [which] caused an already degrading practice in itself to have an even greater impact on her rights, and because there was a less restrictive remedy that was not investigated. ”

In response to the report, ACT corrections minister Mick Gentleman said the government would track down the purchase of body scanners to limit the need for strip searches.

“ACT Corrective Services was already in the process of acquiring another full-body scanner [prison]. In light of the inspector’s recommendation, we are now getting two, ”he said.

“I understand that strip searches can be stressful and traumatic for both prisoners and staff, and therefore we want to minimize strip searches as much as possible.”

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