often avoid using the Welsh language or requesting Welsh language services in
the prison for fear of making their life more difficult. This is one of the
findings of a new report published today by the Welsh Language Commissioner.
basis of the 'Welsh language in prison' report is a series of interviews with
prisoners, a review of relevant documentation and legislation, and evidence
from organisations which provide prison services.
of the prisoners interviewed said: "Using Welsh makes you different. I
think that this is the reason why not everyone who can speak Welsh chooses to
use the language. "
prisoner said: “I don’t think my life would be easy if I insisted on using
Welsh; I don’t want to frustrate the officers and the authorities.”
have been occasions when some prison staff interfered with the freedom of
prisoners to speak Welsh with each other and with their families. One prisoner
spoke of an occasion when his father was visiting, and when an officer asked
them not to speak Welsh with each other. “I felt angry because other people can
speak their own language so why not Welsh? I didn’t complain; who would listen?
There is no point in complaining.”
are more legal rights to use the Welsh language in prisons located in Wales
than in England. The opening of CEM Berwyn has led to improving the Welsh
language provision, but there are still a large number of instances where
people from Wales are imprisoned in England. This is particularly true in the
case of women, as there are no prisons for women in Wales.
prison service has taken positive steps over the past few years. For example,
CEM Berwyn has created opportunities for prisoners to use the language
socially, and has strengthened monitoring arrangements. The situation is
expected to improve further as more prisoners from north Wales will be located
at CEM Berwyn.
her report, the Welsh Language Commissioner makes a series of recommendations
to enable prisoners to speak their own language and express themselves better,
and to ensure that organisations respect the identity of Welsh-speaking
Language Commissioner, Meri Huws, said: "Language is not a matter of
luxury, but a matter of justice. It’s about the fundamental rights of prisoners
to communicate in their own language, or in the language they find it easiest
to express themselves.
"I’m saddened by
stories of prison officers interfering with prisoners' freedom to speak Welsh
with each other and with their families; and it is important to make it clear
that such situations are not acceptable.
"Throughout the process
of preparing this report, my officers have been discussing the findings and
recommendations officials at HMPPS - the organisation that oversees the prison
service. I am confident they will use the findings and recommendations to take
positive action to improve the experiences of Welsh speakers.”
Amy Rees, Executive Director
of HMPPS in Wales, said: "I thank the Commissioner for producing a fair
and comprehensive report. We accept the results and have already begun taking
action to improve the experiences of Welsh speaking prisoners. As the report
notes, meeting the language needs of prisoners is key to support rehabilitation
and to reduce re-offending. I look forward to working with the Commissioner to
improve our processes to achieve that aim."