West Belfast MLA Jennifer McCann has slammed Justice Minister David Ford’s refusal to publish the findings of a Prison Service study into alternatives to strip searches at Maghaberry Gaol.
Jennifer McCann, who is a member of the Justice Committee at the Assembly, said:
“Following consistent lobbying by our party since the agreement of August 2010 David Ford undertook to examine alternative search procedures in prisons in the South of Ireland and Britain.
“Strip Searching is degrading and humiliating and is unnecessary in this day and age when technology could be used. Strip Searching was used in the past against republican prisoners in the H-Blocks and Armagh women's prison to degrade prisoners and attempt to break their morale and solidarity.
“Prisoners coming to and from visits in Roe House at Maghaberry are searched using a device called the Boss chair and we have consistently asked that this is extended to the reception area for prisoners entering and leaving the prison to go to court etc.
“Prisoners are at no time left without an escort whether prison officers or the PSNI and therefore the Boss chair should be used as an alternative.
“David Ford now needs to introduce with urgency a system of searching that will not humiliate or degrade prisoners. These forms of alternative searches are working effectively elsewhere and there is no reason why they can’t be used here.”