WAPOU calls for reform to strip searching in WA prisons

Thursday 18 Apr 2019

The WA Prison Officers’ Union (WAPOU) has welcomed the findings of a review into strip search policies at WA prisons, especially in relation to staff and visitors, but says a trial of less invasive and more effective scanning technology should be considered.

The report by the Inspector of Custodial Services highlights the high number of strip searches being conducted on prisoners, with less than one in every 1,500 searches finding contraband items.

It also highlights that staff and visitors to prisons, including children, can also be strip searched. During the last five years, 374 children were strip searched. No contraband was found as a result of those searches.

The report noted that strip searches are distressing, humiliating, and degrading experiences, and the risk of harm is amplified for those with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

WAPOU Secretary Andy Smith said the Union agrees that this approach is not delivering the results to justify the harm it causes, particularly to staff who are subjected to strip searches carried out by fellow employees. 

“Strip searches on staff in the past 12 months have not resulted in the discovery of contraband, but have caused direct harm to the targeted staff, resulting in absences from the workplace.

“As the report notes, strip searches are humiliating and degrading. 

“If there is enough intelligence to suggest that a staff member is attempting to bring contraband into a prison, the matter should be referred directly to police. 

“Strip searching of staff is not appropriate when less invasive and more effective scanning technology can be utilised,” Mr Smith said.