Volume 16, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1384-6647
  • E-ISSN: 1569-982X
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This paper presents an overview of the strategies adopted by prison systems around the world to enable communication between foreign language-speaking inmates and corrections staff. Following a survey-based research design, the study targeted prison systems where the incarcerated population is at least 10% foreign-born. Information was gathered about the following issues: the legal framework ensuring communication rights of prisoners, interpretation and translation service provision, and non-mediated initiatives to overcome the language barrier. The findings show that interpreting in prison settings is still an area in the making, in terms of both professional practice and scholarly research. However, despite the paucity of legislative support and the widespread dependence on ad hoc measures and natural interpreters (mainly prisoners, and sometimes staff), a slow shift towards professionalization can be observed in some countries. These modest advances in prison interpreting seem to be taking place in countries which also pioneered — or are pioneering — the professionalization of community interpreting as a whole. This trend seems to bear very little relation to the degree of development of national prison systems, or to the proportion of foreign-born inmates in the overall prison population.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): ad hoc interpreting; foreign prisoner; natural interpreter; prison settings
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