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Hydebank report must be first step in new facility for women prisoners

26 May, 2005

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Human Rights, Equality and Women, South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane has welcomed the publication of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate into the conditions of women prisoners held at Ash House, Hydebank Young Offenders Centre and said that consultation and a commitment to a new facility for women prisoners must be a priority.

Ms Ruane said:

"Having witnessed the appalling situation faced by women prisoners held in Hydebank firsthand when I visited the prison in April it is essential that the publication of the Inspectorates Report is only the first step in the development of a new facility for women prisoners.

"Women prisoners were moved from Maghaberry, where they had their own discrete facility with in-cell sanitation, to Hydebank Wood Male Young Offenders Centre last June. In Hydebank there is no in-cell sanitation and women must rely on prison staff to unlock them during night time to use toilet/washing facilities.

"It is vital that key issues in developing a new facility are addressed including the need for:

· A discrete unit for women prisoners

· Appropriate educational and training facilities

· Adequate facilities for women with babies or separate/appropriate health care facilities

· The practice of subjecting women to strip-searches, that are currently more frequently than they were in Maghaberry prison

· Appropriate regime and facilities for housing women at risk from self-harm

· Separate transport to court to avoid being subjected to verbal sexual assault

"I am very disturbed at the conditions that women prisoners are being housed in. It is clear that the mental health and well being of women is not being adequately catered for. I am also very angry at what appears to be a total breakdown in the prison regime regarding women at risk from self-harm.

"Sinn Féin believes that a new facility for women prisoners, as supported by the United Nations recently, should be provided to cater for the specific needs of women." ENDS

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