Inmate’s human rights violated, say inspectors

PRISON inspectors claim a female inmate has suffered a “serious violation of her human rights” and that other women in Dochas Prison were subjected to “unnecessary humiliation” by being ordered to strip naked in front of male staff for an internal body scan.

And inspectors said inmates in Mountjoy Prison are becoming addicted to drugs because they are being forced to share cells with addicts due to the absence of drug-free areas in the jail.

The findings were seen in the 2010 annual reports of 14 visiting committees which were published yesterday afternoon by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

The reports highlight ongoing and, in some cases, worsening, overcrowding, poor conditions and gang feuds.

The Dochas Visiting Committee said it noted a “distinct shift” in the ethos of the women’s prison.

It said in one incident a woman was forcibly removed from the prison in circumstances it found to be a “serious violation” of her human rights. It had written to the authorities but had received no reply.

It said, in another case, a search operation led to a number of women being ordered to strip naked in front of male staff with only a small number of towels for cover.

It “condemned” the way the BOSS chair was used. This scans internal cavities for contraband.

It described this incident as “unnecessary degrading treatment”.

The Mountjoy Visiting Committee said there had been “no improvement” in overcrowding and sanitary conditions and that people continued to be crammed into cells, in which they ate meals and defecated in front of each other.

It said there were no drug-free areas and people were being introduced to drugs: “Sharing cells often leads to experimentation and addiction for those never involved in drugs prior to coming to Mountjoy.”

Other committees said:

*Conditions in Cork Prison were “degrading” due to slopping out and that mental health services were “inadequate”.

*In-cell sanitation should be introduced in two wings in Limerick Prison “as a matter of urgency” and that “excessively high” numbers of fine defaulters continued to the imprisoned there.

*St Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders was trying to deal with increasing numbers and increased gang violence. It said it was “wrong” that offenders on protection were held with inmates being punished and that, with increasing gang numbers, the situation was “becoming unmanageable”.

Mr Shatter said that up to 300 spaces would come on line in the Midlands Prison next year and that 70 spaces would open in Dochas next month.

He also said 100 cells in Mountjoy’s C Wing had been renovated with in-cell sanitation and that 217 cells in B Wing would be refurbished next year.

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