Volume 63, Issue 6
  • ISSN 0521-9744
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9668
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


Criminal justice systems throughout the world are becoming increasingly aware of the challenges posed by language barriers. However, that awareness is still limited to the realm of court proceedings, whereas legislation aiming to protect language rights of foreign prisoners is scarce and vague. In the particular case of Spain, only a few provisions in the Prison Rules envisage the notion of language assistance, making it explicit that such support is to be provided by other prisoners or staff.

This paper aims to analyze the implications of an underdeveloped language policy in the realm of Spanish penitentiary institutions, focusing on how the specific measures stemming from that policy affect the rights of imprisoned foreign nationals. Against the backdrop of the limited legislative coverage of language issues, communication strategies seem to be based on the linguistic assimilation of foreign language-speaking inmates, either to communicate directly with staff or to serve as interpreters for newly arrived fellow inmates. Causes and consequences of these strategies are discussed in this paper, including an analysis of the quality of the interpretations that nonprofessional prisoner-interpreters are able to provide.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Alexander, Claire, Rosalind Edwards, and Bogusia Temple
    2004Access to Services with Interpreters: User Views. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation/York Publishing Services.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Angelelli, Claudia
    2004Revisiting the Interpreter’s Role. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/btl.55
    https://doi.org/10.1075/btl.55 [Google Scholar]
  3. Berdugo Gómez de la Torre, Ignacio, and Laura Zúñiga Rodríguez
    (eds) 2001Manual de Derecho Penitenciario. Madrid: Colex.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Bhui, Hindpal Singh
    2009 “Foreign National Prisoners: Issues and Debates”. InRace and Criminal Justice, ed. byHindpal Singh Bhui, 154–170. London: Sage. doi: 10.4135/9781446215951.n9
    https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446215951.n9 [Google Scholar]
  5. Blasco Mayor, M. Jesús, and Maribel del Pozo Triviño
    (eds) 2015Legal Interpreting at a Turning Point. MonTI, Monographs in Translation and Interpreting, 7.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Campbell, Kathryn M
    2005 “Psychological Services”. InEncyclopedia of Prisons & Correctional Facilities, ed. byMary Bosworth, 791–795. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Council of Europe
    2006Recommendation Rec(2006)2 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the European Prison Rules. https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=955747
    [Google Scholar]
  8. 2012Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)12 of the Committee of Ministers to member States concerning foreign prisoners. https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1989353&Site=CM
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Court Interpreters Act. 28 U.S. Code § 1827 1978https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/28/1827
    [Google Scholar]
  10. De la Cuesta Arzamendi, José Luis
    2005 “Retos Principales del Sistema Penitenciario Hoy”. InJornadas en Homenaje al Xxv Aniversario de la Ley Orgánica General Penitenciaria, ed. byVV.AA, 119–137. Madrid: Ministerio del Interior – Secretaría General Técnica. DGIP.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. del Valle, Sonia
    2003Language Rights and the Law in the United States: Finding Our Voices. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. DGIP [Dirección General de Instituciones Penitenciarias]
    2006Plan marco de intervención educativa con internos extranjeros.Madrid: Ministerio del Interior. www.institucionpenitenciaria.es/web/export/sites/default/datos/descargables/publicaciones/Documento_Penitenciario_4_completo.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Ebden, Philip, Arvind Bhatt, Oliver J. Carey, and Brian Harrison
    1988 “The Bilingual Consultation”. The Lancet331 (8581): 347. doi: 10.1016/S0140‑6736(88)91133‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(88)91133-6 [Google Scholar]
  14. Elderkin-Thompson, Virginia, Roxanne Cohen Silver, and Howard Waitzkin
    2001 “When Nurses Double as Interpreters: A Study of Spanish-Speaking Patients in a U.S. Primary Care Setting”. Social Science and Medicine52: 1343–1358. doi: 10.1016/S0277‑9536(00)00234‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0277-9536(00)00234-3 [Google Scholar]
  15. European Parliament and Council of the European Union
    2010Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:32010L0064
    [Google Scholar]
  16. García García, Julián
    2006 “Extranjeros en Prisión: Aspectos Normativos y de Intervención Penitenciaria”. Paper read atCongrés Penitenciari Internacional: La funció social de la política penitenciària, 2006, Barcelona.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Goffman, Erving
    1967Interaction ritual. New York: Anchor Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Harris, Brian, and Blanca Sherwood
    1978 “Translating as an Innate Skill”. InLanguage Interpretation and Communication, ed. byDavid Gerver and Wallace Sinaiko. New York: Plenum. doi: 10.1007/978‑1‑4615‑9077‑4_15
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-9077-4_15 [Google Scholar]
  19. Harris, Brian
    1977 “The Importance of Natural Translation”. Working Papers in Bilingualism12: 96–114.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. HM Inspectorate of Prisons
    2006Foreign National Prisoners: A Thematic Review. London: HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. 2007Foreign National Prisoners: A Follow-up Report. London: HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Honigsberg, Peter Jan
    2013Linguistic Isolation: A New Human Rights Violation Constituting Torture, and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (Law Research Paper No. 2013-11). San Francisco: University of San Francisco. papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2208749
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Kuo, David, and Mark J. Fagan
    1999 “Satisfaction with Methods of Spanish Interpretation in an Ambulatory Care Clinic”. Journal of General Internal Medicine14: 547–550. doi: 10.1046/j.1525‑1497.1999.07258.x
    https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1525-1497.1999.07258.x [Google Scholar]
  24. Kurz, Ingrid
    2001 “Conference Interpreting: Quality in the Ears of the User”. Meta46 (2): 394–409. doi: 10.7202/003364ar
    https://doi.org/10.7202/003364ar [Google Scholar]
  25. Ley Orgánica 1/1979, de 26 de septiembre, General Penitenciaria 1979https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-1979-23708
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Martínez-Gómez, Aída
    2014 “Interpreting in Prison Settings: An International Overview”. Interpreting16 (2): 233–259. doi: 10.1075/intp.16.2.05mar
    https://doi.org/10.1075/intp.16.2.05mar [Google Scholar]
  27. 2015 “Interpreting Quality in Prison Settings: A Proposal for an Assessment Tool”. InInterpreting Quality: A Look around and Ahead, ed. byCornelia Zwischenberger and Martina Behr. Berlin: Frank & Timme.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. 2016 “Facing Face: Non-Professional Interpreting in Prison Mental Health Interviews”. European Journal of Applied Linguistics4 (1): 93–115. doi: 10.1515/eujal‑2015‑0024
    https://doi.org/10.1515/eujal-2015-0024 [Google Scholar]
  29. Meyer, Bernd
    2001 “How Untrained Interpreters Handle Medical Terms”. InTriadic Exchanges. Studies in Dialogue Interpreting, ed. byIan Mason. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing Ltd.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Ozolins, Uldis
    2010 “Factors that determine the provision of Public Service Interpreting: comparative perspectives on government motivation and language service implementation”. JoSTrans: The Journal of Specialised Translation14: 194–215.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Pöchhacker, Franz, and Mira Kadric
    1999 “The Hospital Cleaner as Healthcare Interpreter: A Case Study”. The Translator5 (2): 161–178. doi: 10.1080/13556509.1999.10799039
    https://doi.org/10.1080/13556509.1999.10799039 [Google Scholar]
  32. Pöchhacker, Franz
    2001 “Quality Assessment in Conference and Community Interpreting”. Meta46 (2): 410–425. doi: 10.7202/003847ar
    https://doi.org/10.7202/003847ar [Google Scholar]
  33. Real Decreto 190/1996, de 9 de febrero, por el que se aprueba el Reglamento Penitenciario 1996https://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-1996-3307
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Rhodes, Penny, and Andrew Nocon
    2003 “A Problem of Communication? Diabetes Care among Bangladeshi People in Bradford”. Health and Social Care in the Community11 (1): 45–54. doi: 10.1046/j.1365‑2524.2003.00398.x
    https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2524.2003.00398.x [Google Scholar]
  35. Rodríguez Sáez, José Antonio
    1992 “El Derecho de Defensa y de Asistencia Letrada en la Fase de Ejecución de las Penas Privativas de Libertad. Un Análisis del Deber Ser”. InCárcel y Derechos Humanos: Un Enfoque Relativo a la Defensa de los Derechos Fundamentales de los Reclusos, ed. byIñaki Rivera Beiras. Barcelona: José María Bosch Editor, S.A.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Rodríguez Yagüe, Cristina
    2004 “Los derechos de los extranjeros en las prisiones españolas: legalidad y realidad”. Revista General de Derecho Penal2. www.cienciaspenales.net/files/2016/07/5extranjeros-en-prision.-cristina-rodriguez.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  37. SGIP [Secretaría General de Instituciones Penitenciarias] [Google Scholar]
  38. [Google Scholar]
  39. Shlesinger, Miriam, Karla Déjean le Féal, Ingrid Kurz, Gabriele Mack, Lorella Cattaruzza, Anna-Lena Nilsson, Helge Niska, Franz Pöchhacker, and Maurizio Viezzi
    1997 “Quality in Simultaneous Interpreting”. InConference Interpreting: Current Trends in Research, ed. byYves Gambier, Daniel Gile, and Christopher Taylor, 123–132. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/btl.23.08shl
    https://doi.org/10.1075/btl.23.08shl [Google Scholar]
  40. Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove
    2006 “Language Policy and Linguistic Human Rights”. InIntroduction to Language Policy: Theory and Method, ed. byThomas Ricento, 273–291. Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Truss, Geoffrey, and Michelle Inderbitzin
    2005 “Inmate code”. InEncyclopedia of Prisons & Correctional Facilities, ed. byMary Bosworth, 473–475. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. United Nations Organization
    1948Universal Declaration of Human Rights. www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
    [Google Scholar]
  43. 1955Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/TreatmentOfPrisoners.aspx
    [Google Scholar]
  44. 1985Model agreement on the transfer of foreign prisoners and recommendations for the treatment of foreign prisoners. www.unodc.org/pdf/compendium/compendium_2006_part_02_01.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Valdés, Guadalupe
    (ed.) 2003Expanding Definitions of Giftedness: The Case of Young Interpreters from Immigrant Communities. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Van Kalmthout, Anton, Femke Hofstee-van der Meulen, and Frieder Dünkel
    (eds) 2007Foreigners in European Prisons. The Netherlands: Wolf Legal Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. VV.AA
    1996Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights. www.unesco.org/cpp/uk/declarations/linguistic.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Wadensjö, Cecilia O.
    1998Interpreting as Interaction. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error