Irish Penal Reform Trust

Travellers in the Irish Prison System: A qualitative study

19th May 2014

Travellers in the Irish Prison System: A qualitative study is a 76-page qualitative research report, which includes interviews with 10 former prisoners (5 female, 5 male).

Download the report here.

Download appendices C and D here.

The findings in the report are illustrated with direct quotes, which detail:

  • Issues facing Travellers while they are in prison:Discrimination from other prisoners and from staff / literacy problems / separation from family / conflict in prison / mental health problems in prison / illicit drug use in prison
  • Issues facing Travellers leaving prison: Estrangement and isolation / returning to a violent relationship / difficulties finding somewhere to live

  • Supports and coping strategies in prison: Support from other prisoners / ritual and filling time / support from staff

  • The Bigger Picture: Discrimination in daily life / marginalisation and offending behaviour / drug dependence and offending behaviour / discrimination in the criminal justice system / external pressures on Traveller culture

  • Review of the Literature, Ways Forward and Recommendations


Six key recommendations included in the report are:

Recommendation 1: Develop a strategy for Travellers in the criminal justice system to: address discrimination; identify proactive steps to ensure that Travellers have equal and culturally appropriate access to education while in prison; and ensure equitable access to relevant supports for Travellers on leaving prison.

Recommendation 2: Develop an equality policy for the Irish prison system, which sets out how the Irish Prison Service will ensure that all prisoners receive equal treatment and enjoy equal rights.

Recommendation 3: Conduct effective ethnic monitoring; analyse, and publish the results on a regular basis; and addressing any unjustifiable disproportional outcomes between Travellers and other prisoners.

Recommendation 4: Establish Traveller groups in prisons to ensure that Travellers’ needs are identified and brought to the attention of prison staff; the involvement of community-based Traveller organisations is key.

Recommendation 5: Provide targeted reintegration support to Travellers on release from prison, and work with Traveller communities to address factors such as stigma surrounding drug use and offending behaviour. For those who cannot return to their family, targeted support measures should exist to enable them to access secure accommodation and employment. 

Recommendation 6: Further research is required to fully explore the relationship between social disadvantage, marginalisation and offending behaviour among Travellers.

IPRT is very grateful to the St Stephen’s Green Trust for supporting this research project.

Members of the research group which supported the study were: Seamus Taylor, Lecturer in Applied Social Studies, NUI Maynooth; Katayoun Bahramian, Co-ordinator and John Paul Collins, Community Development Worker, Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre; Susan Fay, Managing Solicitor of the Irish Traveller Movement Independent Law Centre; and Maria Joyce, Co-ordinator of the National Traveller Women’s Forum.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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