The Travellers in Prison Initiative (TPI) was developed in 2014 as a response to the particular needs and circumstances of Travellers within the 14 prisons in the Republic of Ireland. The background to the TPI can be traced to the Irish Penal Reform Trust’s research report, Travellers in the Irish prison system (IPRT, 2014). This report documents the challenges and difficulties being experienced by Travellers within Irish prisons.
It formed the basis of a workshop that was attended by over 50 Travellers and Traveller representatives and jointly hosted by the Irish Travellers Movement (ITM) and St Stephens Green Trust (SSGT) in July 2014. There was unanimous approval at this workshop for setting up an initiative that would focus on the issue of Travellers in Irish prisons.
SSGT trustees allocated funding for the TPI for a three-year period (2015 to 2018). The Irish Prison Service and the Irish Probation Service also fund the initiative and grant funding has been received from the Health Services Executive (HSE) Social Inclusion Unit also, to conduct research on the specific issues for Traveller women in the criminal justice system. The three-year programme is operated by SSGT.
While there are no official statistics on the number of Travellers in prison it is recognised that Travellers are significantly over-represented within the prison system – although Travellers only account for 0.6% of the overall population in the Republic of Ireland it is estimated that they account for 22% of the female prison population and 15% of the male prison population (source: Irish Prison Service). The disproportionate representation of Travellers in the penal system is not a situation that is unique to Ireland; the same trend can be found in other countries with an indigenous minority ethnic population.
Who we are
An interagency steering group has been appointed to guide the direction of the TPI. This includes representatives from Pavee Point, the National Traveller Women’s Forum, the Irish Traveller Movement, the Irish Prison Service, the Probation Service, the Irish Penal Reform Trust, Mincéirs Whiden, Exchange House, Traveller Counselling Service, the HSE Social Inclusion Unit, IASIO, The Irish Red Cross, the Education and Training Board and Midlands Traveller Conflict Mediation Initiative. Anne Costello is the Programme Co-ordinator. She works part-time and is based in Galway and contact details are here.