Language Policy in Prisons at the Crossroads. The Voice of Foreign Inmates

(Pages: 63-70)

Carmen Valero – Garcés*

University of Alcala, Madrid, Spain 


Imprisonment may give rise to traumatic situations since it entails a notorious lifestyle change for individuals. This situation can be aggravated for those inmates who have problems in understanding the information they receive in this new environment, as well as when it comes to express themselves. Interaction in this new environment is considered as a first step for subsequent rehabilitation. This process requires a great effort from both prison staff and inmates. There is a wide array of carefully designed rehabilitation and reintegration plans offered by the Directorate General for Penitentiaries in Spanish prisons which are illustrative enough. However, these programmes might be doomed to failure if the information does not reach every user as a consequence of language barriers. In addition, these inmates are in many cases socially excluded to a high degree and they are also unaware of their rights as both citizens and prisoners. This paper deals with language policy and communication in Spanish prisons. The study brings a new perspective to light by addressing issues surrounding communication with foreign inmates based on the viewpoints of prisoners themselves and opinions about ad hoc interpreters and translators. 


Human Rights; language policy; penitentiaries; prison; Interpreting and Translation.