Review condemns prison strip searches

Strip searches fail to improve prison safety and unreasonably limit the human rights of female prisoners, their families, and prison staff, the Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) has found.

The QHRC released its report, Stripped of our dignity, a human rights review of policies, procedures and practices in relation to strip searches of women in Queensland prisons, last month after conducting the first major review of its kind under the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld).

The review was a recommendation from the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce’s second Hear her voice report, released in July last year.

It included site visits to all five of the state’s women’s prisons to consult with prisoners, staff and prisoner advisory committees.

The 165-page report explores the key human rights issues and identifies opportunities for best practice, drawing on human rights standards, and the policies, practices and procedures from other jurisdictions in Australia and overseas.

It contains 24 recommendations for Queensland Corrective Services to make searches more human rights compatible and trauma-informed until body scanners and other alternative technologies can be implemented. A body scanner trial will begin at one women’s correctional centre next year.


“While making prison environments more humane is of obvious benefit to prisoners, it’s also very important for staff in making their workplace safer, and for the broader community, in terms of less traumatised prisoners on release,” Queensland Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall said.

“Strip searches are unnecessarily traumatic and humiliating for prisoners, but they are also completely ineffective,” Mr McDougall said

“They have an absurdly low rate of contraband detection and have negative impacts on prison operations.

“They need to be replaced by modern technological alternatives in drug and contraband detection.”

The full report and a summary are available here.

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