Relatives of republican prisoners have complained of being treated in a degrading and humiliating manner at Maghaberry jail involving a so-called ‘sniffer dog’.
No Republican prisoner, nor those visiting them have ever been found with drugs in their possession.
The mother of prisoner John Connolly, a woman with ill health, had been refused a visit with her son whom she hadn’t seen in a number of months.
According to the IRPWA, a welfare group acting on behalf of prisoners and their families, the dog sat down at the feet of the mother of prisoner John Connolly whilst going through processing and she was physically removed from the visiting area, along with thre other women who objected.
Accroding to Sean Burns of the IRPWA, the prison officers on duty “were both happy to ignore the fact that Mrs Connolly had made over a 200 mile round trip to the jail and also to dismiss her cries to ‘please just let me see my son’.
“Something which severely upset John Connolly who could only witness this commotion through the visiting room door.
“It must be obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense what is happening here in Maghaberry Gaol. The last time anyone was stopped in such circumstances was back in 2003 when the issue was consistently raised with the NIO and prison administration.
“This sudden reversal just happens to coincide with a Loyalist protest, an increase in harassment against Republican prisoners by screws, and not to mention the very recent allegations of ‘malpractice’ against prison staff.
“It is clear that the prison officers in Maghaberry are coming under considerable pressure and in doing so they revert back to the old tactic of taking out their frustrations on others - namely Republican prisoners and their loved ones.”
Meanwhile, the British government’s Prison Service has put forward Proposals for a ‘Prisoner Ombudsman’ and new prisoner complaints procedure for prisons in the Six Counties.
The Prison Service said it had been considering the introduction of an independent element to the complaints procedure through the appointment of a Prisoner Ombudsman for some time.
Last year the Steele Review on prisons had said an Ombudsman could make ``a valuable contribution towards defusing the tensions that inevitably arise within any prison system``.
A consultation document published today outlined the existing complaints process, set out the proposals for a new process and made proposals for the appointment of an ombudsman.
A shortened consultation period of just four weeks has been set - because of the extensive consultation which took place during the Steele Review.