Monday 16 July 2018

Language barrier hampers warders

Patricia McDonagh

Patricia McDonagh

PRISON officers have called for language training to help them cope with the surging number of foreign prisoners in Irish jails.

The Prison Officers' Association made the call as figures showed the number of non-nationals jailed here rose by 36pc in five years.

The demand also follows a report by Cloverhill Prison Visiting Committee which said prison officers should be trained in language skills.

The 11-strong committee said prison officers could be taught the basics of the most common languages spoken by prisoners.

General Secretary of the POA, Eugene Denney, last night said the language problem in prisons was "problematic".

He said the POA raised the issue with the Prison Service more than two years ago, specifically in relation to to Cloverhill Prison -- which holds a large number of non-nationals. "Our officers are trying to be patient with people and trying to understand them, but it is time-consuming and causing difficulties," he said. "If we had training it would lead to a smoother running of the prison and less disruption. We should certainly be trained to have an understanding of the language or learn the basis of a core language."

He added: "We see this issue a lot in prisons such as Arbour Hill, Mountjoy, Dochas, St Patrick's Centre and Wheatfield."

Figures from the Irish Prison Service show that, excluding UK nationals, there were 2,675 foreign prisoners in Irish jails in 2006 -- almost 30pc of all inmates. The figure rose by 36pc from the 1,956 foreign prisoners in jails in 2002.

A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said the issue had not been brought to their attention. But he said any deficiency in training would be considered by management. He added that many foreign prisoners had been encouraged to study the English language.

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