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Parliament: BSL in Prisons

justice.jpgRudi Vis (Finchley & Golders Green, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many British Sign Language users worked in each prison at the latest date for which figures are available.

Maria Eagle (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Liverpool, Garston, Labour)

Information on the number of prison staff or official visitors who are able to use British Sign Language is not collated centrally nor required to be recorded locally.

A number of staff based at prison establishments have chosen to learn British Sign Language (BSL), however there is no requirement for them to disclose or record this either locally or nationally. There are also organisations such as the Birmingham Institute for the Deaf (BID), the Royal Association of Deaf People, and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) who will put prisoners in touch with qualified signers who will visit the prisoner. Not all prisoners who have hearing difficulties will use BSL.

When a prisoner is identified as needing either an interpreter for BSL, or would benefit from receiving visits from someone who speaks BSL, the prison will arrange for an interpreter or suitable visitor through local or national support agencies.

1. Relying on volunteers to go and visit say, once a month, is not the same as fulfilling your statutory duties;
2. RNID putting prisoners in touch with qualified signers(!), please leave comments to let us know what service this is, as we've not heard of it;
3. The government makes note of physical adjustments in respect of say ramps, and possibly notes this via maps and general accessibility when say housing wheelchair users. This would be part of a nationwide audit, in being able to identify services that are accessible and DDA compliant. Why are BSL users right at the bottom of the pile, and yes there is a requirement. You have a requirement to make adjustments, and part of this adjustment should be anticipatory in order to meet this need. What about the Disability Equality Scheme here?
4. "Not all prisoners who have hearing difficulties will use BSL". What's this got to do with the question, is the government trying to play down the fact it doesn't have the figures here? The use of terminology here, "hearing difficulties" and the association of a medical issue goes right in the face of a BSL recognition statement that Maria Eagle made herself in 2003 (as Minister for Disabled People)!
5. Do you see an underlying trend here? Avoid any collection of statistics when it comes to deaf people.

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Comments (1)

I remember being informed a few years back about a deaf person who went to prison for sexual offenses for a long term.

Hearing people who commit the same offence can get a reduced term if they participate in a rehabilitation programme which means that they can be considered for parole.

The deaf person because they cannot get an interpreter cannot access the rehabilitation programme and therefore has to serve the full term.

I cannot remember the source of this but assume it was before the DDA came in.

Wonder if this sort of thing still exists today?

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