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Prison Review into deaths - action required

23 January, 2006

Sinn Féin Human Rights and Equality Spokesperson Caitríona Ruane is available to comment on the "A Review of Non-natural Deaths in Prison Service Establishments (June 2002 - March 2004)" that is due to be published today.

Speaking ahead of the report into prison deaths 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 to an even more unsuitable prison, Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre. Yet, over the last two years there have been number of reports into the Prison Service. It is vital that recommendations from these reports as well as the one published today are acted on.

"When I visited female prisoners in Hydebank last 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 current prison regime can be rigid and overbearing towards women prisoners and most of all there was a sense of despair among many that their plight was being ignored by those in positions of authority. Health and particularly mental health needs are not being met within the prison system. It is particularly important that the issue of mental health and well being is taken far more seriously both by the Prison Authorities and also by the judicial system." ENDS

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