UK: Welsh speaking prison guard shortage at HMP Berwyn sparks security fears over inmates calls
There are not enough Welsh speaking prison guards to monitor inmates phone calls at HMP Berwyn.
That was one of the damning conclusions of an unannounced visit to the Wrexham super jail.
Staff at the jail have struggled to have Welsh language telephone calls translated according to a report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke.
The report also found there was also “no effective strategy to promote the Welsh language” at the prison which opened in 2017 .
Nearly a quarter of the 1,300 inmates at the £250 million prison are Welsh speakers and all of them have access to a phone in their cells.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke stated in the Independent Monitoring Board’s report on the jail: “Arrangements to conduct and review phone monitoring of inmates were ineffective and potentially put the public at risk.There was a two-month backlog of unmonitored calls. Where risk – such as a restraining order breach – was belatedly identified, it was not always referred to the police for investigation or to the prison’s internal disciplinary procedures for punishment.The jail had also struggled to have Welsh language phone calls translated.”
After the inspection prison chiefs recommended that there needs to be a “clear strategy” to promote the Welsh language at the prison after fears that the unmonitored phone calls posed a safety risk.
They ordered “quick action” after the report and the number of hours of calls in Welsh yet to be checked is now down to 17 hours.
The Prison Service said: “The backlog of calls still to be heard has fallen significantly since the inspection.”
Former Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws issued a report in 2018 which revealed that inmates at HMP Berwyn often avoid using speaking in Welsh or requesting Welsh language services in prison for fear of making their life more difficult.
In a series of interviews with inmates, several admitted that there had been occasions when some prison staff interfered with the freedom of prisoners to speak Welsh with each other and with their families.
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