Wales: Native Welsh speakers facing discrimination in UK’s largest prison

Wales: Native Welsh speakers facing discrimination in UK's largest prison

Native Welsh speakers are continuing to face discrimination in HM Prison Berwyn, the UK’s largest prison, campaigners have said.

Concerns about the treatment of prisoners who speak Welsh as a first language have previously been raised by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee and the Welsh Language Commissioner.

Campaign groups Undod and Prisoner Solidarity Network have launched a letter-writing campaign calling for action to end “threats and punishments against Welsh speakers, the isolation and separation of Welsh speakers, prolonged delays in access to Welsh language correspondence and denial of access to Welsh language media”.

In a statement this week, Welsh Language Commissioner Aled Roberts said: “An individual’s right to communicate through the medium of his or her own language, or in the language in which they can best express themselves, is a matter of fundamental justice.

“In December 2018, my office published a report into the rights and experiences of Welsh speakers in prisons. The report was based on evidence heard from prisoners and from prison service (HMPPS) officers.

“We heard that speaking Welsh sometimes made life more difficult for a prisoner; and such a situation is not acceptable.

“We discussed the report’s findings and recommendations with HMPPS, and they responded positively to each of our recommendations, and developed a new language scheme reflecting the commitment to improve.

“We have continued to hold regular discussions with HMPPS and we contacted the governor of Berwyn following the Independent Monitoring Board’s report which highlighted areas for improvement in the way the Welsh language is treated.

“However, I am aware of the recent discussions about the treatment of Welsh speakers at Berwyn. I would urge anyone affected by this to contact me to share their experiences.”

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