September 29, 2014

How much does each EU country spend in court/legal interpreting and translations and interpreting in prisons? In the case of the UK, the proportion of foreign nationals in English & Welsh jails is now over 10%.

The cost of hiring translators for legal translation services and interpreting in prisons has reached new heights.

The Mail Online reported that a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice shows that providing translation services to a large foreign inmate community costs the British taxpayer almost £1M in 2013.

Although the percentage of foreign-born prisoners has gradually fallen from its high of 14% in 2006 to 12% in 2014, translation services costs continue to increase. The latest figures for interpreting in prisons show £994,000 – on top of the record £15M spent on translators for non-English speakers in British courts and legal cases during 2013.

Despite these enormous pay-outs, the level and the quality of translation services has been the target of controversy and criticism because of the way management consultant firm Capita has not fulfilled the terms of the contract. This has led to frequent disrupted court proceedings as contracted interpreters were sometimes incompetent or missing, or even did not speak the language they had been required to interpret, as the Mail reported in May.

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

Christians (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestans, and other denominations) make up 50% of the population in British jails, One is still less likely to meet a Christian on average in a prison than in normal life, because they are 20% less likely to be incarcerated. Hindus and Jews are also two religious groups statistically less likely to be in jail. Statistics from 2013 record only 250 Jews in English or Welsh jails, the smallest such religious group.

All other religious denominations have a higher than average chance of being in prison. Muslims only make up 4% of the population of England and Wales. However, in 2013 they made up 13,1% of the total prison population. They thus became the second largest religious group in numbers behind bars.

Almost 33% of prisoners in the UK identify themselves as having no religion at all.

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