Prison slammed over strip search

A PRISONER advocate has slammed prison authorities over the strip search of a female inmate by a male guard that was watched by other officers from a control room.

An investigation into the incident revealed that the "privacy cell" at Hobart Reception Prison had been disabled for up to a year.

In that time the prison would conduct about 1945 strip searches, 265 of them female.

Both the Justice Department and the government will not say exactly how long the privacy cell was inactive.

Privacy cells are used for strip searches and have cameras that can only be accessed by an officer with a password.

Australian Lawyers Alliance's Greg Barns said the incident revealed just how easily "people's rights are easily trashed by security agencies".

"Every time the Department of Justice get caught out they say it's a one-off," he said.

"No one should be fooled that this is an isolated incident.

"What we need in Tasmania is a human rights act so that people can take the appropriate action under that legislation to seek redress."

The department has confirmed the privacy cell has since been reactivated, but would not say whether other prison facilities are using them.

"The incident referred to ... is a one-off situation not in keeping with strict Tasmania Prison Service protocols and the professional behaviour of correctional staff," a department spokeswoman said.

"Strict procedures are in place to ensure the appropriate searching of all prisoners and detainees."

Corrections Minister Vanessa Goodwin has been reticent to wade in to an issue that occurred under the previous government.

"This is an operational matter and the department has answered The Examiner's questions," a government spokeswoman said.

"The minister is aware of the issue and is pleased the privacy cell has returned to full operation."


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