The Guardian May 23, 2001


Queensland strip search laws "assault"

Queensland's new mandatory prison strip search rules were legalised 
assault, a women's prison counsellor said. New laws passed last week in the 
Queensland state Parliament made strip searching mandatory for prisoners 
who had contact with visitors, went to court or to hospital.

Queensland Corrective Services Minister Tony McGrady said the rule was 
necessary to stop the flow of drugs into the prison system.

"On balance I believe that I have a responsibility to prevent drugs and 
contraband getting inside the prisons of Queensland", Mr McGrady told ABC 
Radio.

However, Sisters Inside spokeswoman Debbie Kilroy said the new laws were 
sexual assault by the state. "This is why they have to legislate it, it is 
an assault under the criminal code. However, the government gets away with 
it by legislating a crime, so it is not a crime."

Ms Kilroy described the invasive process. "You strip off the top half of 
your body, turn around, lift up your breasts, then you are given your bra 
back again. "Then you have to remove the bottom of your clothing, hands 
against the wall, squat, cough, and if you are menstruating you have to 
remove your tampon and give it to the officer."

The strip searches will also be taped, a move Minister McGrady claimed was 
in the best interest of prisoners. "It will only be seen by the manager of 
the prison and certainly won't be seen or used by any other persons", he 
said.

"If we have these searches on camera and allegations are made by the 
prisoners you have the proof in front of you to counter or indeed prove the 
claim by the prisoner."

But Australian Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Terry O'Gorman said 
there were better ways to stop drugs entering prisons.

"What would be a more enlightened measure would be to see methadone 
extended to all Queensland prisons so that people who go into prison drug 
addicted can be properly treated and not become worse drug addicted while 
they are in prison", Mr O'Gorman said.

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