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Foreign National Prisoners Picture Dictionary Picture it in Prison – Recent Updates

Worldwide over half a million foreign nationals are detained abroad. Many foreign national prisoners (FNPs) encounter difficulties as a result of the language barrier. To overcome this obstacle Femke Hofstee-van der Meulen developed a picture dictionary with more than 450 colourful pictures and translation of basic words and sentences in twenty different languages. The aim of this pocket-sized booklet is to stimulate FNPs in their communication with others, to encourage them to learn a foreign language and to create awareness about prison rules and its regime.

The first edition of the picture dictionary was sent to all Dutch nationals in foreign detention as a gift to thank them for their participation in the PhD-research by Femke. In 2015 she finished her PhD on detention abroad.

In 2016 the picture dictionary was tested in two FNP-prisons in the United Kingdom. Based on the outcome a tailor-made version was developed for HM Prison & Probation Service. This version contains translations of additional frequently spoken languages. In 2017 the Belgium Prison Service and the Prison Service in Luxembourg started to provide FNPs with the picture dictionary upon arrival in prison.

Since 2018 the pocket-size picture dictionary is, upon request of prison services, also available on a larger scale (A4-size) for prison staff.  Since prison populations become less and less homogenous, prison staff is expected to deal with different cultures and languages. The picture dictionary is therefore helpful.

For more information about how to obtain a copy of the dictionary, please contact

Author: Femke Hofstee-van der Meulen, Prison Watch