First Nations organisations and law groups have called for the ACT government to reform laws to ban routine strip searching of women in prisons, after alarming data revealed Indigenous women were twice as likely to be strip searched.
Meanwhile, advocates have urged the ACT government to move ahead with introducing protections against torture and abuse in jails, advocates have urged.
All states and territories face a January deadline to implement the United Nation's Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, known as OPCAT.
Under the protocol, every jurisdiction is required to have a "national preventative mechanism" (NPM) that would carry out inspections and oversight of police and prison cells to protect against torture, abuse and systemic failings.
Western Australia is the only place to have fully implement its safeguards.
Change the Record, an Aboriginal-led national justice coalition, has called on the government to provide its plans on how this deadline would be met.
Change the Record and the Human Rights Law Centre wrote to ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury last month to seek an update.
The letter expressed concern about the fact there was no publicly available information to suggest the territory was on track to meet the January 2022 deadline. The letter also asked for urgent consultation.
"The ACT government must take urgent steps to implement OPCAT and this starts with consulting civil society - including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations - as a matter of priority," the letter said.
Mr Rattenbury told The Canberra Times the ACT government was on track to meet the January deadline and that further consultation would be done as the mechanism's model is finalised.
He said already existing oversight committees and the ACT's independent Inspector of Correctional Services could contribute to a model.
"The Justice and Community Safety Directorate has consulted widely in relation to the nomination of a NPM in the ACT and further consultation will occur with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and other stakeholders as the ACT NPM model is finalised," Mr Rattenbury said.
Advocates have argued that if the OPCAT was fully implemented strip-searches would be the type of conduct that would be examined.
Freedom of information documents revealed in a seven-month period there were 208 strip searches of women in the Alexander Maconochie Centre, and more than half, 121, were conducted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
Only three of those searches resulted in contraband being found.
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Of the female prison population at Canberra's jail, 44 per cent are Indigenous.
A joint letter from Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal and Community Services, Dhurrawang Aboriginal Human Rights Program Canberra Community Law, Change the Record and Human Rights Law Centre called for law reform to ban routine strip searching.
The organisations wrote to Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman last month.
"We are calling for straightforward law reform that strictly prohibits the routine strip searching of women in prisons," the letter said.
"A strip search should only ever be permitted as a last resort after all other less intrusive search alternatives have been exhausted, and there remains reasonable intelligence that the person is carrying dangerous contraband.
"The law must require that this assessment occurs on a case-by-case basis. It should never be done as a matter of routine."
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