TPI Current Work

The Travellers in Prison Initiative (TPI) is a partnership between SSGT, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) and the Probation Service (PS) to embed changes in policy and practice that have a positive influence on Travellers in prison, their families and communities. It is guided by an interagency Steering Group of the three partners and other key stakeholders. The TPI has identified five key action areas with the potential to inform policy and practice in a pragmatic and sustainable manner.

* Click tabs below to read the action areas in more detail – Click tab again to close.
Building a knowledge base about Travellers in Criminal Justice System

Ethnic Equality Monitoring

Having accurate information is widely seen as an essential first step which will allow for evidence based policy-making and to identify where racism and discrimination may occur. TPI developed an evidence-based approach, including a scoping study (Lalor 2017), to the introduction of an ethnic identifier following which the Irish Prison Service (IPS) committed to using the ethnic categories developed by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

  • TPI facilitated training (by Pavee Point) for staff in the IPS, the Probation Service and IASIO on data collection and equality monitoring.
  • A census was undertaken in all prisons in 2018 using the CSO census question on ethnicity. The IPS now asks a question on ethnicity for all new committals and the Prison Information Management System (PIMS) has been revised to reflect the data gathered in the census. This provided reliable data on the extent of over-representation of Travellers in the Irish prison system for the first time.
  • To date, the ethnic data collection has enabled the publication of reports on participation and outcomes for Traveller prisoners.

Traveller Women in Prison

  • TPI commissioned research with Traveller women in custody in Dóchas and Limerick prisons to gain an insight into their pathways into prison and the particular issues faced by Traveller women in the criminal justice system. The 2017 report ‘Hearing their Voices – Traveller women in Prison’ is available on the TPI Reports page.
  • TPI subsequently supported the National Traveller Women’s Forum to undertake a feasibility study into a model of support and advocacy for Traveller women (pre and post-release). A funding application has been submitted (2021) to the European Social Fund for the model and an operational plan is now being finalised.
Travellers’ access to and outcomes from prison-based services and re-integration supports

A range of services is available within the prison system aimed at assisting rehabilitation and reducing re-offending. TPI is committed to addressing barriers to access to ensure that Travellers are benefitting from those services.

Traveller Liaison Teachers

  • The TPI and the City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) piloted an initiative to promote Travellers’ access to CDETB services across all Dublin prisons. CDETB nominated an existing teacher in each prison as a Traveller liaison teacher. These liaison teachers have a broad remit to develop initiatives around Traveller participation. The IPS is supporting the roll out of this initiative in all prisons. The formative evaluation of the TPI/ CDETB initiative is available on the TPI Reports page.

Equality, diversity and Traveller inclusion training

  • TPI liaised with the Traveller Mediation Service (TMS) to develop a module on Traveller inclusion for delivery to new Prison Recruit Officers (PROs). TMS now deliver numerous sessions annually.
  • TPI facilitated the delivery of Equality & Diversity training to 16 ETB teachers in Dublin prisons by Maynooth University.
  • TPI worked with the Probation Service training department and a former prisoner to deliver training on Traveller inclusion to frontline staff.

Culturally appropriate family support

Family support is a particularly important factor in improving outcomes for Travellers in prison and their families and ultimately in reducing recidivism. Family support is a vital intervention at various stages in the criminal justice system.
Examples of initiatives:

  • The TPI has worked with Galway Traveller Movement to document the insights and stories of Travellers in prison and their families to inform the development of more appropriate family supports. It is hoped that these stories will be resonant for the wider Traveller community and will also support key professionals to support Travellers in prison and their families from a position of cultural respect and social justice. The 2021 report by Siobhán Madden ‘We Keep Going for Each Other’ is available on the TPI Reports page.
  • The TPI worked with Childhood Development Initiative (CDI), Castlerea prison, IPS, Tusla and IASIO to identify potential models for supporting the families of prisoners. The 2019 report Prisoners Returning Home: Prisoners and Family Reintegration is available on the CDI website.
  • The TPI worked with National Traveller MABS to produce a guide for families impacted financially by the imprisonment of a family member. The 2019 guide Financial Advice for Travellers with a Family Member in Prison and a leaflet signposting supports for families is available on the TPI Reports page.
Development of initiatives to promote peer support and advocacy amongst Travellers in prison

Traveller Peer Support Groups were set up in prisons to help counter isolation and the negative feelings and emotions associated with imprisonment. The benefits of the groups include: increased engagement between Traveller (and other) prisoners; increased participation in and access to broader services, and an enhanced understanding and awareness about Traveller culture among Traveller and other prisoners and prison staff.

Peer-support work

The TPI worked with Traveller organisations to develop a toolkit and set of standards for organisations delivering peer support. The toolkit is available on the TPI Reports page. The TPI piloted the delivery of peer support in four prisons. This peer support programme has been mainstreamed, and the IPS funds three Traveller organisations (National Traveller Women’s Forum, Meath Travellers Workshop and Tipperary Rural Traveller Project) to deliver peer support in the Dóchas Centre, Wheatfield, Limerick and Midlands prisons.

TPI Newsletter

The TPI liaises with Travellers in prison and the ETB to produce newsletters for dissemination throughout the prison estate. The newsletters contain information about peer support, prison services and relevant news about the Traveller community for Travellers in prison. The newsletters are available on the TPI Reports page (TPI Newsletters).

Peer-Mediation in Prison

Staff and Traveller prisoners at Castlerea prison identified the high levels of conflict and violence amongst prisoners as an issue of concern. In response to requests from Castlerea prison, the TPI liaised with the Traveller Mediation Service and the ETB to develop a course on peer-mediation which was piloted in Castlerea prison. The training was evaluated and has since been rolled out to five prisons. A copy of the evaluation and an infographic capturing the impact in numbers is available on the TPI Reports page.

Network of Traveller organisations working in prisons

TPI has established a network of Traveller organisations engaged in work with Travellers in prison and/or their families. The purpose of the network is to create opportunities to share learning, problem solve and promote good practice. The network plays a key role in informing the development of good practice guidelines for peer-support.

Documenting and sharing the learning of the TPI Initiative

SSGT places a heavy emphasis on learning from programmes and uses a MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning) approach whereby frameworks are developed for each programme. All initiatives have a learning element embedded in the approach and guides, briefing documents, reports and evaluations help to disseminate this learning. The TPI is keen to ensure that policy and practice decision makers (including those not directly involved in the work of the project) are aware of the issues for Travellers in prison and their families.

The TPI Coordinator produces quarterly reports for funders and the Steering Group – mapping progress against strategy and analysing progress to date. The experience and expertise of Steering Group members is used to inform approaches and next steps.

National conferences

The TPI held two national conferences, in 2017 and 2021, to showcase the work of the TPI and highlight issues for Travellers in prison amongst decision makers, service providers, practitioners and community workers. The conferences also create a space to work collectively on sustainable strategic responses to improve outcomes for Traveller prisoners which are expected to contribute to reductions in rates of imprisonment.

The 2021 Conference, Closing the Revolving Door, was opened by His Excellency, Michael D. Higgins, and his powerful opening address is available here.
Conference reports and videos are available on the TPI Reports page (Conferences).

External Evaluation of TPI

Method Consultants was contracted to undertake the evaluation of the TPI (2014-2020). The evaluation makes a series of recommendations and it can be downloaded from the TPI Reports page.

Travellers In Prison Initiative
Back to Top