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UK Govt Spends £1m-A-Year on Foreign Language Translators for Prisons

UK Govt Spends £1m-A-Year on Foreign Language Translators for Prisons


With the proportion of foreign nationals in English & Welsh jails now firmly established at over ten percent, the cost of hiring translators is reaching unprecedented heights. 

As reported by the Mail Online, a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice shows that providing translation services to the overwhelmingly Irish, Jamaican and Polish inmates cost the taxpayer nearly one million pounds last year.

Although the proportion of foreign prisoners has fallen slightly from it’s high of 14 percent in 2006 to 12 percent now, the costs of translation continues to rise. The latest figure of £994,000 comes on top of the record £15 million spent on translators for non-English speakers in court cases last year.

Despite these enormous pay-outs, the service rendered has not been first class. Translation services provided by controversial management consultant mega-firm Capita have led to disrupted court proceedings because of incompetent or absent interpreters, as reported by the Mail in May.

Statistics from the Government on nationality, ethnicity, and religion of inmates in English and Welsh prisons reveal some unusual patterns. Although the foreign born population incarcerated at Her Majesty’s pleasure is roughly equal to the broader population of those resident in the UK, other groups are distinctly over or under represented.

Although Christians make up half the prison population, you are still less likely to meet a Christian on average in a prison than in normal life, as they are a fifth less likely to be incarcerated. The same can be said for Hindus and Jews, who are both also statistically less likely to be in Jail. Statistics from 2013 record only 250 Jews in English & Welsh jails, the smallest such religious group.

The same cannot be said for all other religions recorded, which have a higher than average chance of being in prison. While Muslims only make up 4 percent of the population of England & Wales, in 2013 they made up 13.1 percent of the total prison population, making them the second largest religious group behind bars.

Almost a third of prisoners self-identify as having no religion at all.

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