Sinn Féin - On Your Side

British government must provide a women's prison

11 October, 2005

Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane will be attending a conference in Belfast tomorrow organised by the Human Rights Commission to discuss the conditions in which women and girls are being detained in the North's prisons.

Speaking ahead of the conference Ms Ruane said:

"Last year, following several controversial deaths by suicide in Maghaberry prison, the British government chose to ignore the recommendations of its own Prison‚s Inspectorate and transferred women and girl prisoners to an even more unsuitable prison, Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre.

"This represented a blatant disregard for international human rights standards regarding the detention of female prisoners who, where necessary, should be housed in discrete, gender specific accommodation.

"When I visited female prisoners in Hydebank earlier this year to inspect their conditions I was shocked and saddened that many of the women and girls were being held in worse conditions than in Maghaberry, with no in-cell sanitation in particular being a key concern while the majority of prison officers were male.

"The attitude and ethos of the prison regime was rigid and overbearing towards the women and most of all there was a sense of despair among many that their plight was being ignored by those in positions of authority.

"I welcome the focus of the Human Rights Commission on the conditions for women in prison and call upon the British government to take immediate steps to take practical and humane steps to address the conditions in which women are currently being held. A good start would be to address the unbalanced ratio of male to female prison officers while in the immediate term the nettle must be grasped to plan for a new discrete facility for female prisoners." ENDS

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