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Sinn Féin welcomes Human Rights Commission's call for Independent Public Inquiry into conditions for women in prison

19 October, 2004


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has described today's second Human Rights Commission report into the treatment of women detained at the Mourne House Unit at Maghaberry Prison and Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Unit as 'a scathing indictment of the scandalous conditions in which women remand and sentenced prisoners are being held.'

Mr. Adams said:

'Sinn Féin welcomes the detailed report by the Human Rights Commission and its series of 41 recommendations which culminate in calling for an Independent Public Inquiry into the role of all the key players. Anyone concerned at the conditions under which women are being held in prison should examine this report carefully. Our initial view is that it should be implemented in full.'

Recalling that three women have committed suicide in recent years in Maghaberry the Sinn Féin President called for the Prison system to 'immediately lift its block on the Human Rights Commission having access to the Women's Unit at Hydebank.'

'Sinn Féin has been demanding that the British government provide the Human Rights Commission with the power to enter places of detention. This is now needed more than ever given the refusal of the Prison Service to permit the Commission access to Hydebank, and the appalling conditions under which women are being held as revealed in today's report.'

"It is clear that the prison system has failed and continues to fail women, particularly those at greatest risk. There is a lack of healthcare, effective monitoring and support for women caught up within the prison system.

"The Prison Service has failed to draw up, and more importantly implement, a policy or strategic plan for the gender specific treatment of women in custody. Transferring women from a female unit in Maghaberry to a unit in Hydebank, which mostly holds young male offenders, has not addressed any of the problems caused by the absolute failure to provide protections for women in custody, particularly where they are at risk.

"The prison regime at Maghaberry was unacceptable and the move to Hydebank has not been accompanied by the necessary changes to prison policy. The Prisons Inspectorate made clear recommendations for the treatment of women, on separation of women, separate management structures, in-cell sanitation and effective training of staff. These have been totally ignored.

"One of the greatest areas of concern has been the fact that no special provision was made for children and young people thus breaching International Human Rights Standards. What also was of concern was the failure to provide appropriate medical, and crucially psychiatric, care especially for vulnerable women. The failure of the Prison Service to develop a policy on the treatment of women has compromised the health and well being of women in custody and has unfortunately led, on a number of occasions, to young women dying while in Maghaberry.

"The case of one of my constituents, Roseanne Irvine, raises all of these issues. Roseanne died in Maghaberry Prison in March. This young woman should never have been placed in prison. Roseanne was failed absolutely by the Prison Service, by social services and by the courts."ENDS

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