Encouraging positive relationships between Travellers, prison staff and others is one of the aims of new support services prison management wants Traveller organisations to provide at the Midlands Prison Portlaoise.
The Irish Prison Service (IPS) has invited organisations to operate so-called peer support programmes in prisons in support of the Travellers in Prison Initiative which has been in operation since 2015.
The first peer support project for Travellers was set up in Wheatfield Prison in 2014. Such projects have since been established in Limerick, the Midlands Prison, Portlaoise and the Dóchas unit.
The aim of peer support includes the promotion and respect for the Traveller identity and culture. It also aims to encourage positive relationships between Travellers and others including prison officers.
Other aims include the development of pathways for life after prison and examining ways to improve the situation of Travellers in prison and opportunities after prison.
The Irish Prison Service has now sought expressions of interest from Traveller organisations who wish to get funding to operate peer support programmes in prisons.
Inviting groups to apply, the service said organisations have the 'know how' to design programmes culturally appropriate to Travellers because of their knowledge and experience of the issues faced in society. The service said organisations also provide Traveller role models for prisoners which encourage them to build pathways for success.
The organisations will be required to target sentenced and remand male and female prisoners. It will run three years at Wheatfield, Midlands and Limerick prisons for men and the Dóchas Centre for women.
Organisations will report to steering groups in the relevant prisons as part of an agreement with the IPS.
The annual budget is €80,000 or €20,000 for each prison with a detailed review after the 12 months.
The project is co-funded by the Department of Justice.
The deadline for experssions of interest closed on November 12.