Strategic Priorities

What we do
The overall aim of the TPI is to embed changes in policy and practice that have a positive influence on Travellers in prison, their families and communities. 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 prison

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.

Travellers’ access to and outcomes from prison-based services and re-integration supports

Prison based services – A range of services are available within the prison aimed at assisting rehabilitation and reducing re-offending. While there hasn’t been any research conducted into the uptake of services by Travellers including the barriers to access and the outcomes, the anecdotal evidence indicates that many Travellers are not benefitting from those services.

Increasing Traveller participation in prison-based services has three primary strands:
a) Encouraging Travellers to want to participate.
The Traveller community has a long history of being discriminated against in all aspects of life including education and health provision. As the Traveller community generally-speaking encourages the traits of independence, self-reliance and stoicism, normalising participation in prison-based services is vital in order to promote Traveller participation. Traveller peer-support facilitators are facilitating discussions with Travellers in prison that challenge the narrative ‘that accessing services is not what Travellers do.’ They are normalising the idea that ‘accessing services is what empowered Travellers do’ as well as consulting with Travellers in prison to develop a strategy to promote participation.

b) Creating an atmosphere in prison in which participation is both normal and positive.
The Education Training Board have appointed a teacher as co-ordinator of the ETB initiative to promote and improve Traveller access to and outcomes from ETB services in Dublin prisons. 7 teachers from the Education Units, have also been nominated as Traveller Liaison teachers. TPI have co-delivered training on Traveller inclusion with Pavee Point to the Traveller liaison teachers.

TPI also collated and analysed responses to an on-line survey issued by TPI to ETB teachers (Dublin) to establish a baseline about their knowledge about issues for Travellers in prison and their insights into increasing access. The ETB have committed to implementing the key recommendations. TPI supported the development of a module on Traveller inclusion for delivery to new prison officer recruits with the psychologist from Castlerea prison. Traveller ex-prisoners were facilitated to co-deliver the training. With the support of Meath Travellers Workshop and Pavee Point, six Dublin prisons were supported to host very successful events to celebrate Traveller Pride in the prisons.

c) Providing suitable services in prison
The TPI have undertaken in-depth interviews with 10 key prison service providers to ascertain their views on Travellers uptake of services and how levels of engagement could be enhanced. The interviews have been analysed and a report developed outlining the key findings and policy pointers.

Culturally appropriate family support

The TPI considers the area of family support to be a particularly important factor in improving outcomes for Travellers in prison and their families and ultimately in reducing recidivism. Family support could prove to be a vital intervention at various stages in the criminal justice system. As the IPS are developing a new model of family support ‘Family Links Programme’ the TPI is actively engaging with the key stakeholders to seek to influence the development and implementation of this model to ensure that it is Traveller inclusive.

Consultation with Traveller orgs highlighted a need for training and information to enable them support families of prisoners more effectively. The TPI supported the Galway Traveller Movement to make a successful application to SSGT to pilot an initiative to develop a culturally inclusive model of family support. The learning from the pilot will be documented and used to inform the IPS model and the family support toolkit. A no of key people have joined the GTM advisory committee including the Regional Implementation Manager for Prevention, Partnership and Family Support, West and Tusla Family Support Team in Galway, the senior probation officer and the IPS psychologist. The IPS have seconded the psychologist to work with the GTM 1 day per month.

Development of initiatives to promote peer support and advocacy amongst Travellers in prison

a) Peer-Support Groups
The establishment of Traveller Peer Support Groups within prison is an attempt to counter isolation and the negative feelings and emotions associated with imprisonment. Benefits accruing from peer support groups include the potential to decrease isolation, increase access to broader services, and enhance understanding and awareness about Traveller culture. The TPI is supporting a number of Traveller organisations to establish Traveller peer-support groups in prisons. The SSGT is currently funding Traveller organisations to facilitate peer-support groups in 6 prisons including; Wheatfield, Limerick, Midlands, Loughan House, Dochas Centre and ArbourHill.

Peer-support facilitators have identified a need to develop an evidence based model of good practice with a view to mainstreaming. TPI have facilitated a no of sessions with the facilitators to begin to identify the core principles that should inform good practice. Meath Travellers Workshop made a successful application to SSGT to undertake a formative evaluation of all the SSGT funded peer-support groups with a view to documenting good practice guidelines.

b) TPI Newsletter
The TPI liaise with Travellers in prison and the ETB to produce a regular newsletter for dissemination throughout the prison estate. The newsletters contains information about peer support, prison services and relevant news about the Traveller community for Travellers in prison. Previous editions of the TPI newsletter can be accessed here

c) Peer-Mediation in Prison
Staff and Traveller inmates at Castlerea prison have identified the high levels of conflict and violence amongst prisoners as an issue of concern. In response to requests from Castlerea prison to deliver training to inmates on mediation, the TPI liaised with Midlands Traveller Conflict Mediation Initiative and the ETB to develop a course on peer-mediation which was piloted in Castlerea prison.

A training programme on peer-mediation was delivered to 19 prisoners (predominantly Travellers) in Castlerea prison (Oct – Mar 2017). Each training session was held one day per week. There was a strong involvement of Travellers in delivering and evaluating the training. 7 of the participants (all Travellers) underwent an assessment for their suitability as peer mediators which was undertaken by an independent mediator (who is accredited by the MMI).

As a result of the peer-support, it is estimated that the peer mediators have impacted upon 100 people, which is likely to result in a reduction in conflict, sanctions and P19s occurring in the prison. Two Traveller men who are studying mediation in NUIM were involved in undertaking the evaluation. SSGT funded MTCMI to evaluate the initiative and document the learning with a view to rolling out peer-mediation training in other prisons.

The report ‘An evaluation of Peer-Meditation in Castlerea prison’ is available here. It documents the process and sets out clear recommendations for mainstreaming peer-mediation in Castlerea and other prisons.
Personal impacts of peer-mediation training
“It has changed my view in that things can be talked out instead of conflict….I look at it in a different light”
Wider community impacts of peer-mediation
“We were able to prevent trouble starting on the inside and escalating to the outside”

d) TPI Network of Traveller organisations working in prisons
The TPI have established a network of Traveller organisations who are currently 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 will play a key role in informing the development of good practice guidelines for peer-support.

Documenting and Sharing the Learning of the TPI Initiative

There is a need to document the process, outcomes and learning points from the TPI Initiative as a key element of the strategy. The TPI are keen to ensure that key 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 co-ordinator produces an analysis of progress to date and identifies possible proposals for discussion at steering group meetings.

The TPI will host a national conference in October 2017 to showcase the work of the TPI and the issues for Travellers in prison amongst decision makers, service providers/practitioners and community workers and to create a space to work collectively to develop a strategy to develop a sustainable response to improve outcomes and to reduce rates of imprisonment into the future.

TPI publications

Towards Developing a Strategy for Travellers in Prison (2016)

Ethnic Identifiers in Irish Prisons – Context and recommended practice for improving data collection on Travellers and minority ethnic groups in Irish Prisons (2017 Tanya Lalor)

Midland Traveller Conflict Mediation Initiative – Peer Mediation Pilot Initiative in Castlerea Prison Evaluation report (2017 Tanya Lalor)

‘Hearing their Voices’ Traveller Women in Prison (2017 Rachel Doyle)

Access to prison-based services for Travellers in the Irish prison system – A consultation exercise with service providers (2017 Liza Costello)

TPI Newsletters (Editions 1, 2, 3, 4)

Contact Details

Travellers in Prison Initiative,
St Stephen’s Green Trust,
PO Box 950, Newbridge, Co. Kildare

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