Current Work

1. Building a knowledge base about Travellers in prison

Ethnic Data Collection and Monitoring
Having accurate information is widely seen as an essential first step which will allow for evidence based policy-making and identify where racism and discrimination may occur.

Following TPI campaigning, including a scoping study (Lalor 2017 available on the Publications page), the Irish Prison Service has committed to using the ethnic categories developed by the Central Statistics Office. The Prison Information System (PIMS) is currently being modified to allow registration using the new format. Use of the question is being piloted in Castlerea prison and will be rolled out subsequently to other prisons.

Training has been delivered by Pavee Point to IPS Training Liaison Officers who will oversee the roll-out of staff training across the prison estate. It is envisaged that training will also be delivered to Red Cross staff with a view to them raising awareness among prisoners.

The IPS plan to pilot a one day census in Castlerea and Dochas, in order to get a clearer picture of our prison population. Lessons learned from this will be used to inform a census event across the prison estate.

The TPI will continue to advocate for the IPS to analyse and publish the results and address any unjustifiable disproportionate outcomes for Travellers

Traveller Women in Prison
An advisory group which includes Traveller women currently serving sentences in Dochas has been established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations in the report ‘Hearing their Voices’ – Traveller Women in Prison by Rachel Doyle and available on the Publications page. Priorities include research into Travellers relationships with the Gardaí and judiciary and a feasibility study on a model of post-release advocacy and support for Traveller women.

2. Increasing and improving Traveller access to prison services

The focus of initiatives to date has been two-fold: making services more responsive, attractive and culturally acceptable to Travellers and encouraging Travellers’ participation through peer-support groups and raising awareness about services.

In the five Dublin prisons for which it has responsibility, the City of Dublin ETB has a 2-day a week dedicated coordinator. In each prison there are liaison teachers with a broad remit to develop initiatives to encourage Traveller participation. The liaison teachers have undergone training on Traveller inclusion and have initiated a number of actions to increase Traveller participation including Traveller Pride events, a renewed focus on literacy and efforts to make the curriculum more appropriate to Travellers. This initiative will be evaluated in 2018 with a view to replicating it in other prisons.

The ten main statutory and voluntary service providers within prisons were interviewed to ascertain their views on the issue of Travellers access to services. It is intended to develop recommendations and an implementation strategy based on the findings.

Further work will be done to better understand the views of Travellers in prison about accessing services and their views on the types of services and approaches that would be most appropriate. Focus groups in prison is the proposed way to gather this information.

3. Strengthening self-identity and self-advocacy

Traveller peer support groups have been established in the following prisons – Wheatfield, Midlands, Limerick, Dóchas and Arbour Hill. A formative evaluation of the peer-support groups is currently under way. The main purpose of the evaluation is to do the following:
• Document the practice, learning and experience of the projects, and to make recommendations for any future mainstreaming or development of peer support projects;
• Develop a model of practice for peer support and to produce this model in the form of a toolkit. This should draw from the experiences and learning of the projects, as well as best practices in peer support;
• Devise standards for peer support projects, to ensure that a measure of quality that can be used to guide peer support projects.

Following very successful Conflict Awareness workshops in Castlerea prison by the Red Cross, it was agreed that TPI and The Traveller Mediation Service would pilot the development and delivery of peer-mediation training for prisoners in Castlerea. The evaluation report on the pilot indicates a very positive impact in terms of reductions in conflict and violence. Minister David Stanton visited Castlerea Prison in November 2017 to learn more about the initiative and was very impressed by the powerful presentation by prisoners demonstrating the impact of the training on reducing conflict and violence. A second training course for new participants is underway in Castlerea and plans are in place to begin courses in Dóchas and Midlands prison.

4. Culturally Appropriate Family Support

The TPI is working with the Galway Traveller Movement to develop a better insight into the particular support needs of Traveller families with a loved one in prison. This includes focus groups with prisoners in Castlerea and interviews with their families. The learning will be used to inform the development of a toolkit for organisations supporting families of prisoners and the Family Links Programme which is being introduced throughout the prisons by the IPS.

5. Documenting and Sharing the Learning of the TPI initiative

The TPI is committed to raising awareness amongst key stakeholders of the particular issues for Travellers in prison and to work collectively to improve outcomes. To this end the TPI hosted a National Conference in Dublin Castle on the 20th October 2017. There was a great interest in the event which was over-subscribed and feedback to this Traveller-led day was very positive. A report on the event will be available shortly. Presentations and photographs from the day can be viewed here.

Interim Evaluation
Dr. Kieran O Dwyer was contracted to undertake the second interim evaluation of the TPI. The evaluation assessed achievements and outcomes under the main action areas between March 2016 and September 2017. The report stated that interviewees were unequivocal in their support for the Initiative. They valued its contribution to fostering partnership and shared understanding, initiating and supporting programmes and facilitating and encouraging initiatives. It was seen as having a significant impact across a range of areas, while acknowledging that several initiatives were at a relatively early stage of development. It was recognised that significant challenges lie ahead, not least in reaching all Traveller prisoners, mainstreaming activities across all prisons, further awareness raising and overcoming negative attitudes. It concluded that the sharp focus on Traveller issues and the progress made in a relatively short period would not have been possible in the absence of the multi-agency approach of TPI.

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