The Language Barrier to Rehabilitation

Dr Liz Hales, Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge has undertaken this short research project on the The Language Barrier to Rehabilitation on behalf of Hibiscus Initiatives and The Bell Foundation. This research looked at The Bell Foundation funded Roma Women Literacy Project and similar offender support projects that offer literacy training and related support for offenders with limited skills in writing or speaking English. By looking at evidence of current need in custodial and community settings, the impact of this on resettlement and access to relevant support, this report helps identify the role and potential outcome of language interventions on resettlement.

The report proposes that appropriate literacy training and English language skills contribute towards successful resettlement of offenders. Key findings from the reports include:

  • The highest level of need for Literacy and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) delivery is amongst those with a low or pre-entry literacy level.
  • Small group tuition focusing on language relevant to everyday life is critical.
  • Peer support is key and helps to overcome the barrier of limited resources.
  • In the delivery of ESOL, the role of the teacher often extends beyond that of tutor to the offering of guidance, support and signposting, among other services.
  • The new requirement for post-release supervision of all prisoners from 2014, as set out by the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, provides an opportunity for better identification of need and signposting to relevant classes for those with limited English language skills.