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London jail criticized for strip-searches

A prison inspector in London has criticized the ‘unnecessary and unacceptable’ practice of cutting off women’s clothes in jail.

London: A prison inspector in London has criticized the ‘unnecessary and unacceptable’ practice of cutting off women’s clothes when they are forcibly strip-searched in jail.

A report on New Hall Prison in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, which has 356 women and two babies, said that responses to women whose behaviour caused concern were also ‘excessively punitive’.

According to, Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said that in one instance, a woman who arrived from another jail and refused to hand over clothes she had been allowed to wear there was held down as they were forcibly cut off her.

The practice is unacceptable and women prisoners should only have their clothes removed ‘using officially approved control and restraint techniques’, Hardwick said.

“We were concerned by a small number of supposedly spontaneous incidents where accounts in paperwork indicated force had been used inappropriately,” the report quoted Hardwick, as saying.

The newly arrived prisoner then ‘restrained, relocated to the segregation unit and had her clothes cut off her as she was forcibly strip-searched’, Hardwick said.

Describing the use of force as neither necessary nor proportionate, he said that a manager’s approval was not obtained and that there was no attempt to resolve the issue in other ways, the report said.

“The special cell in the segregation unit was little-used but when it was, women were routinely placed in strip clothing and too many had their clothes cut off when forcibly searched.
Such practices were unnecessary and unacceptable,” Hardwick said.

According to the report, while conditions at New Hall improved since its last inspection in November 2008, ‘the treatment of a small number of women who combine the most challenging behaviour with the highest levels of need is not acceptable,’ Hardwick warned.


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