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O’Brien questions Minister for Justice on Dóchas unit strip searches and prison overcrowding

22 November, 2011 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Deputy Jonathan O’Brien today questioned the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter on the reports of the Prison Visiting Committee and asked the minister to respond to allegations that female prisoners in the Dóchas unit are strip-searched in front of male prison officers and to address the issue of overcrowding in prisons.
The Cork North Central TD said;
“The Dóchas prison visiting committee have stated that they have written several letters since, regarding the incident of strip-searching but all have gone unanswered.
“I have asked the minister to comment on whether this incident is still under review and, if it is when he expects an outcome of the investigation.
“The visiting committee also highlighted the manner in which the BOSS chair is being used within the prison and in particular incidents where female prisoners are required to remove clothing in the presence of male officers. This is unacceptable and a breach of human rights.
“The minister is now saying that there were no male officers present during strip searches or use of the BOSS chair. If this is the case, then why have the Prison Visiting Committee reported otherwise?
“Further to this I have questioned the minister on issues of overcrowding in prisons. Cork prison has a significant problem with cell accommodation. Chronic overcrowding and slopping out is leading to very difficult and degrading living conditions. The report of the Cork Prison Visiting Committee mentions the introduction of a ‘new slopping out vessel’. Clearly this is not going to address overcrowding and it is imperative that the minister makes effective changes, to the root of prison policy, that will actually have an impact on overcrowding.”

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