THE Prison Service has denied claims that an inmate at Wrexham’s HMP Berwyn was attacked after raising concerns over the treatment of Welsh-speakers.
The allegations were brought to light this week by North Wales MS Llyr Gruffydd, who said the assault occurred after the prisoner’s complaints appeared in the media.
Speaking in the Senedd, the Plaid Cymru politician said it showed Welsh speakers at the prison on the town’s industrial estate were being “treated as second-class citizens”.
However, a spokesperson for HM Prison Service said there was “absolutely no truth” to the accusations.
The claims were made after a report was published last year highlighting complaints that inmates had been threatened with sanctions for speaking Welsh.
The Independent Monitoring Board’s annual review also detailed reports that guards could not understand Welsh speakers.
Raising the matter with First Minister Mark Drakeford during a plenary session on Tuesday, February 23, Mr Gruffydd said: “You will be aware that Berwyn prison has been harshly criticised by the independent monitoring board last year for failing to provide for Welsh-speaking prisoners, and had denied certain rights to those prisoners because they were Welsh speaking.
“Six months later, the prison has confirmed, in correspondence with me, that they don’t even know how many of their own staff are able to communicate through the medium of Welsh, so how can they claim that they are securing the necessary provision, I’m not sure.
“There’s been a serious allegation too that one prisoner had suffered an attack because of the coverage given to his case in the media in relation to the Welsh language.
“This whole situation highlights a fundamental failure in meeting the rights of Welsh speakers.”
He added: “I would encourage you in the strongest possible terms to ensure that this situation changes.
“The fundamental question is: why are we still seeing Welsh speakers being treated as second-class citizens here in Wales?”
Mr Drakeford said Welsh Language Minister Eluned Morgan had written to the Ministry of Justice earlier this month to express concern about the monitoring board’s findings.
He also called for changes to be made to improve the situation as soon as possible.
The Welsh Labour leader said: “It is entirely unacceptable to me if people in Berwyn are not being treated according to the laws that we have in place here in Wales.
“I have seen the annual report of the Independent Monitoring Board in the Berwyn, which does raise concerns about the use of the Welsh language within the prison.
“That’s why Eluned Morgan has written to the UK Government seeking assurances that the Welsh language scheme at Berwyn is being implemented.
“I’m sure that Llyr Gruffydd will be aware that the Welsh Language Commissioner has a meeting on the 2 March with representatives of Berwyn prison to discuss this very issue.”
He added: “The authorities at Berwyn prison have outlined steps that they’re taking to ensure that rights to use the Welsh language are supported, and we now need to see those steps being taken.
“We don’t just want to see them on paper, but we want to see them having an impact on the lives of those in the prison.”
The Prison Service said a number of measures had been taken to support Welsh-speaking prisoners at HMP Berwyn, including the implementation of an action plan and the appointment of a dedicated Welsh language lead.
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