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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Founded by Fishman, Joshua A.

Ed. by Garcia Otheguy, Ofelia / Duchêne, Alexandre / Coulmas, Florian

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Volume 2018, Issue 251


Language, translation and interpreting policies in prisons: Protecting the rights of speakers of non-official languages

Aída Martínez-Gómez
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, USA
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Published Online: 2018-04-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0008


Despite the human rights principle of no discrimination, the growing numbers of imprisoned linguistic minorities around the world face multiple inequalities related to communication barriers: from cultural and social isolation to lack of equal access to facilities and services. This international survey of prison language policies shows that, in general terms, the protection of prisoners’ language rights responds to non-binding international provisions and scarce broadly-defined national ones. At the individual level, however, prison systems can be grouped according to two distinctive factors: (a) the comprehensiveness of their prison language policies, and (b) the type of policy instruments used to provide for language issues. This article describes the content and extent of language, translation and interpreting policies in forty prison systems around the world, placing a final focus on California and England and Wales, which emerge as examples of good practice that could potentially inspire other systems.

Keywords: language policy; prison; foreign prisoners; language rights; translation; interpreting


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-04-12

Published in Print: 2018-04-25

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Volume 2018, Issue 251, Pages 151–172, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0008.

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