Welsh Speaking Prisoners Penalised Allegation

The Celtic League has expressed a concern to the CPT (the Council of Europe body which inspects and sets standards for places of detention) that Welsh speaking prisoners at HMP Berwyn are being penalised for using their language.

The text of the letter is set out below:

“Mr Hugh Chetwynd

Head of Division

CPT Secretariat (Division 3)

Council of Europe

F67075 Strasbourg Cedex

FRANCE

27th September 2020(By email ℅ Francesca Gordon Lawyer and Administrative Officer)

Dear Sir,

I draw your attention to the attached media report on concerns that Welsh speaking prisoners held at HMP Berwyn are being penalised for using the Welsh language. I would urge the CPT to enquire into this as a matter or urgency:https://www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Prisoners-Wales-fear…

Aware of the ‘Extract from the 2nd General Report of the CPT, published in 1992’ Sections 44 and 45 I think these ‘standards could usefully be highlighted to the UK and Welsh governments giving their focus on the maintenance of good staff inmate relations and communication.

“44. In introduction, it should be emphasised that the CPT must examine many questions when visiting a prison. Of course, it pays special attention to any allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners by staff. However, all aspects of the conditions of detention in a prison are of relevance to the CPT’s mandate. Ill-treatment can take numerous forms, many of which may not be deliberate but rather the result of organisational failings or inadequate resources. The overall quality of life in an establishment is therefore of considerable importance to the CPT. That quality of life will depend to a very large extent upon the activities offered to prisoners and the general state of relations between prisoners and staff.

“45. The CPT observes carefully the prevailing climate within an establishment. The promotion of constructive as opposed to confrontational relations between prisoners and staff will serve to lower the tension inherent in any prison environment and by the same token significantly reduce the likelihood of violent incidents and associated ill-treatment. In short, the CPT wishes to see a spirit of communication and care accompany measures of control and containment. Such an approach, far from undermining security in the establishment, might well enhance it.”

The Welsh language has official status in Wales, making it the only language that is de jure official in any part of the United Kingdom, with English being de facto official. The Welsh language, along with English, is also a de jure official language of the Senedd (the Welsh Assembly). As an aside I would suggest that either a translation of the CPT ‘standards’ is available on your website or at the very least supplied to institutions in Wales that the CPT may have within their inspection purview.

Yours faithfully,

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Assistant General Secretary Celtic League”

Image: HMP Berwyn has signage in Welsh and English. In addition to this another sign bilingually sets out ‘GWERTHOEDD NI – OUR VALUES’. However the media report suggests ‘OUR VALUES’ is selective!

Bernard Moffatt

Celtic League (27/09/20)

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