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Prisoners in Wales fear they are being singled out as troublemakers for speaking Welsh

Prisoners fear they are being singled out as troublemakers for speaking Welsh – because baffled guards can’t understand them.

Inmates at HMP Berwyn, a 2,100-capacity ‘super prison’ in Wrexham, North Wales, complained to jail chiefs that warders were threatening to remove their privileges if they caught them using their native tongue.

A report by the Independent Monitoring Board revealed how Welsh speakers said guards who didn’t understand the language suspected they could be hatching plots or insulting warders.

Inmates at HMP Berwyn (pictured), a 2,100-capacity ‘super prison’ in Wrexham, North Wales, complained to jail chiefs that warders were threatening to remove their privileges if they caught them using their native tongue

When HMP Berwyn opened in 2017, experts hailed its ‘values’, which included vows to ‘embrace Welsh language and culture’.

But the inspectors found a number of Welsh-speaking inmates have complained of discrimination, reporting: ‘Some [complaints] concerned prisoners speaking Welsh who could not be understood by officers. It was alleged that these prisoners were challenged with a review of their incentives and earned privileges status.’

When HMP Berwyn (pictured) opened in 2017, experts hailed its ‘values’, which included vows to ‘embrace Welsh language and culture’

The report also said that when Welsh-speaking inmates were accused of breaching rules and sent to adjudication panels, they were denied an interpreter ‘and felt they could not rely on the Welsh-speaking prison staff to be impartial’.

Last year, Peter Clarke, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, also raised worries over how few prison staff could speak Welsh, meaning inmates were not be monitored properly which ‘potentially placed the public at risk’.

The Prison Service said Berwyn inmates were not penalised for speaking their native tongue, adding: ‘We are providing extra staff training and mentors to encourage Welsh speaking.’ 

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