Irish jails home to prisoners of 66 nationalities

Irish Prison Service figures show 3,650 inmates, which includes 134 women

In some cases, employees with certain language proficiencies provide an informal interpreter or translation service for inmates who do not speak English. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

In some cases, employees with certain language proficiencies provide an informal interpreter or translation service for inmates who do not speak English. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Some 66 nationalities are represented in Irish jails with Polish, Lithuanian, British and Romanian men forming the largest ethnic groupings after Irish inmates.

Records from the Irish Prison Service (IPS) show 3,516 men, including 441 non-nationals, were incarcerated at the end of September.

A total of 77 Polish, 66 Lithuanian, 63 British, 49 Romanian and 18 Latvian men were inmates in Irish institutions, with Nigerian, Brazilian, Chinese, and Czech nationals also significantly represented.

Of the 3,650 people in custody in the State earlier this year, 134 were women, according to data released by the IPS under the Freedom of Information Act.

A total of 110 women in female detention centres in Dublin and Limerick were from Ireland, while British, Polish, Romanian, and Lithuanian women formed the largest non-Irish groupings.

The IPS said it spent €63,513 on interpreter services from the start of 2013 to the end of last September.

From January to September this year, it has paid €12,102 for such communication services and has been using the translation and interpreting company, Context.

Language difficulties

The IPS said foreign language assistance is provided where there may be language difficulties for inmates “especially where important information needs to be imparted such as at committal stage, or when presenting to healthcare professionals”.

Figures from the IPS also indicate that its prison staff are from 15 different countries of origin.

Four Nigerian, four Romanian, three British, two Lithuanian and two Polish staff work in IPS institutions, along with members from China, Denmark, Holland, France, Germany and South Africa.

In some cases, employees with certain language proficiencies provide an informal interpreter or translation service for inmates who do not speak English, said the IPS.

Separately, officials said it was not possible to give a figure for the number of prisoners who are deaf, but said deaf persons in custody have historically been “facilitated locally” with a sign language interpreter when needed.

In addition, the IPS said prisoners are entitled to correspond through Irish if they wish, adding it will facilitate, as much as possible, anyone who wants to do so.

Inmates can learn a number of languages in jail, and the education unit at Portlaoise Prison has offered classes in Irish, Spanish, English, French and German.