a) Data Collection and Monitoring
The first step in creating a knowledge base about Travellers in prison is establishing statistics on this prisoner group. The more detailed the figures on Travellers in custody that are gathered then the more effective will be any subsequent interventions. Feedback from a survey conducted by TPI staff indicated that a significant no of Travellers in prison are not identified as such under the IPS ethnic date collection process. Consequently, there is a gap in knowledge about the situation and needs of Travellers in prison.
Following discussion and negotiation with IPS senior management and Pavee Point agreement was reached to contract Pavee Point to implement a pilot project on ethnic data collection and monitoring in Castlerea prison and the Dochas Centre, with agreement to extend the pilot to two other prisons on successful completion. In the first instance it was agreed that TPI would commission a scoping document to ‘map the policy and practice and background to the introduction of ethnic data collection within the IPS, and to evaluate current policy and practice against good practice in ethnic data collection and monitoring’. The report ‘Ethnic Identifiers in Irish Prisons –
Context and recommended practice for improving data collection on Travellers and minority ethnic groups in Irish Prisons’ is available here. The Executive Management Team of IPS have committed to changing the format of the EI question on the PIMS system to reflect the question format of the most recent census as recommended in the scoping paper. The timeline for this is expected to be September 2017.
IPS have agreed to work with Pavee Point to deliver training on ethnic data collection to Training Liaison Officers and front line staff from each prison (who will champion the roll out of EI’s in the prisons) and have agreed to facilitate Pavee Point to pilot the introduction of the new question in 2 prisons.
Michael Donnellan, Director General of the IPS had stated that he is fully committed to ensuring that Travellers are identified within the Irish Prison Service context. This, he stated will ‘enable the IPS to deliver services to Travellers in prison which are more suited to meeting their needs, both in prison and in preparing them for life post-release. When we know the correct ethnic origin of the Traveller population in prison, we can plan and deliver workshops, education programmes, drug treatment and counselling services that are more Traveller-centred.’
b) Traveller women in Prison
While the IPRT report provides some insight into Traveller women’s experience of prison there hasn’t been any research conducted to date on the experiences of Traveller women prior to imprisonment, their post-release experiences or of the experiences of accessing services in prison. TPI commissioned research which consisted of interviews with 12 Traveller in prison (Dochas and Limerick) as well as service providers and IPS staff. The National Traveller Women’s Forum and Pavee Point supported and advised on the research process and will assist in using the findings to inform policy and practice in Traveller organisations, community and voluntary sector and within IPS and Probation service. The report ‘Hearing their Voices – Traveller women in Prison’ has been completed and will be printed over the coming weeks. A sub-group of the TPI steering group (13 organisations represented including the Governor of the Dochas Centre’) has been established to develop an Action Plan to advance the recommendations in the report and to oversee and make recommendations on the implementation of the Action Plan. It was agreed that meetings of the advisory group will take place in Dochas and that two Traveller women currently serving sentences will attend the meetings as representatives of the Traveller women in prison.
Stigma associated with being a Traveller women in prison
“It’s hard for Traveller girls being in jail. We’re used to men going to jail. They tell us you’re worse than men going to jail” (Mary)
“I’m embarrassed ‘cos alone being a Traveller’s an embarrassment and then me age is an embarrassment and me addiction. ‘Cos people like, expect differently from a Travelling woman my age. Not being in addiction, supposed to be looking out for my family. Not be causing trouble, do you know what I mean? Travellers look down on me I think and settled people also” (Katie)
c) Literature Review and examples of good practice
TPI commissioned an overview of literature and case studies of good practice in the UK in order to provide information and evidence to inform and support initiatives under the TPI’s five main action areas. The report ‘Towards Developing a Strategy for Travellers in Prison’ has been published and disseminated to all key stakeholders.
As this paper focused mainly on the practice of the Traveller Equality project in the context of prisons in England and Wales TPI propose to develop a more expansive lit review including examples of good practice and case studies in other jurisdictions relevant to each of the action areas as they develop further.