From Iceland — Prisoners Issue Grievance Over Lack Of English

Prisoners Issue Grievance Over Lack Of English

Published July 25, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Rutepwiki/Wikimedia Commons

Some prisoners in Iceland do not understand Icelandic, and these prisoners are asking for more English-speaking correctional officers, amongst other things.

Vísir reports that in addition to the dearth of English-speaking guards, the prisoners of Litla-Hraun prison are also unsatisfied that prison rules and regulations are only available in Icelandic, despite repeated requests for them to be translated.

Guðmundur Ingi Þóroddsson, the chairperson of the prisoners’ union Afstaða, told reporters that the situation is nothing new.

“There are prison staff who don’t speak English and can’t manage,” he said. “Laws and regulations are often only provided in Icelandic, which is unacceptable. We think it’s unnatural that prisoners are acting as interpreters for other prisoners. There may, for example, be confidential matters that a prisoner wants to talk about without other prisoners hearing about it.”

Prisoners have also complained that prison deputy director Tryggvi Ágústsson either does not speak English, or has at least refused to have direct contact with prisoners who do not speak Icelandic.

Tryggvi, who would not disclose his English proficiency, told reporters that they have called in interpreters when it has been necessary, and that the prison has been working on translating prison literature into other languages. No exact date for when these translations will be made has been disclosed.

In all, there are about 150 prisoners in the Icelandic prison system, with 12 prisoners of foreign origin at Litla-Hraun alone.

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