The FORINER project, launched on the 1st of January 2016, was initiated to provide EU foreign national inmates in EU prisons with access to qualitative, low threshold, certified learning opportunities provided by home institutions but received by the inmate in an EU foreign prison. To this end a structure will be designed and tested which allows education providers to reach out to their national prisoners in other EU countries, at the same quality standard as the home offer. This website will provide you with an update on the progress of the project, along with the contact details of all members involved and locations on where we will be hosting events.
European recognition through Erasmus+
In July 2015 the FORINER project was selected by the European Commission to be funded through the European programme Erasmus+. FORINER was submitted to the Key Action 3 (support for policy reform) call ‘Forward-looking cooperation projects’. The European Commission thus recognizes the opportunities FORINER offers. The FORINER project officially runs from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2017.
Four partners are formally involved in FORINER:
- VOCVO (Flemish support center for adult education) based in Belgium and also promotor of the project;
- VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), also a Belgian partner;
- Educatie Achter Buitenlandse Tralies or EABT (Education Behind Foreign Prison Bars) from the Netherlands;
- MegaNexus, an ICT company based in the UK.
All partners have a strong link to prison education. VOCVO is coordinating prison education in Flanders and Brussels prisons. VUB has done extensive research work regarding prisoners’ participation in correctional programmes (e.g., education, vocational training, library) in the prison of Antwerp, and is now also supporting the prison of Gent in conducting research about the active participation of inmates in the organisation of prison life. EABT has been providing education for Dutch inmates in foreign prisons for ten years, and MegaNexus has implemented the Virtual Campus system across UK prisons with the help from Weston College whom provides the educational material, in a highly regarded restricted electronic learning environment for prisoners.
FORINER can also count on the cooperation of four associated partners. These partners agreed to the project content and believe in its power. Therefore they share their large networks in support of the project goals. These associated partners are:
- EPEA, the European Prison Education Association
- EuroPris, the practitioner network counting 26 European Prison Services as their members
- CEP, the confederation of European probation; also comprising the CEP/EuroPris expert group on foreign national prisoners.
- Weston College, Educational Provider to HMP’s across the United Kingdom
The following goals are pursued by the project.
1. Access to education offered by their home country
The ambition of the FORINER project is to provide foreign national inmates in European prisons with access to qualitative, low threshold, certified learning opportunities provided by home institutions but received by the inmate in a foreign prison. To this end a structure will be designed and tested which allows education providers to reach out to their national prisoners in other European countries, at the same quality standard as the home offer. Both an ICT-driven and a non-ICT-driven solution will be designed. The strategic ambition is that if each European country provides home education materials to their foreign national inmates, it will logically mean for each country that a better offer will be present for the foreign inmates in their own prisons. They will therefore all be provided with access to education from their home land, in addition to the local educational offer they are provided with (such as starters language courses of the national language of the country in which they are imprisoned).
2. Awareness raising and advocacy
The FORINER project aims to develop a structure which is applicable across Europe. Therefore not only the cooperation of the project partners is needed, but also as many other partners (practitioners and policy makers) across Europe as possible. The success rate of the project concept is largely dependent on the cooperation rate of other European partners. The more countries involved, the more foreign national inmates will have access to a qualitative home educational offer. The FORINER project thus does not only focus on creation of the solution and piloting tests, but at the same time invests largely in setting up advocacy and awareness raising actions to promote the project idea and concept across Europe. Every seed that is planted will contribute in time to the project goals.
3. Speed up the digitalisation process in European prisons
Although it is very ambitious to focus on a digital learning solution for a prison environment, the FORINER partners are convinced that it may soon become a reality across Europe. As Europe is taking further steps in the digital era, also in prison structures and services with digital solutions are starting to find their way. There seems to be a pioneering mentality in some countries, wishing to change the system, making it more flexible and thus being able to provide a better environment for prisoners in general. As the digital evolution is expanding outside prison doors, the prison system is bound to follow at some point. The FORINER project intends to speed up this process and show the unique opportunities that ICT-supported education can give to prisoners.
The project milestones are separated in four phases: preparatory phase, design phase, piloting phase and dissemination phase.
1. Project kick-off
The official kick-off of the project takes place in January 2015 with a partner kick-off meeting.
2. Desk research report on existing initiatives
Research report prepared by desk research, online surveys and interviews describing the following aspects:
- Target audience description
- Existing practices
- Best practices
3. Intensive advocacy and network building
Initial advocacy and network building actions during the preparatory phase. Further advocacy and network building actions will continuously go on during the entire project duration.
4. Foriner Conference
Large scale brainstorm and concept design event (75 participants of different regions and expertise all contributing to the design of the most desirable, innovative solution).
5. Pilot project preparation and defining
- Pilot project concept design
Defining the number, location and timing of the pilot projects, setting a target for number of learners: digital solution and non digital solution.
- Pilot project operational preparation
Creation and implementation of local ICT infrastructure, setting up local administrative and coordination structures, search for and (if needed) purchase of lesson material.
6. Pilot project realisation
Carrying out of the distance learning courses, digital and non digital.
7. Pilot project evaluation
A scientific and empirical based evaluation of the pilot projects: learner satisfaction and quality of the implemented infrastructure and procedures.
8. Policy advice
Creation of policy advice based on the concept design, the pilots and their evaluation.
Dissemination to local, national and European level to both policy makers and practitioners.
Rationale for providing education for foreign inmates
The project aim is produced against the background of the legal and human rights (foreign) inmates have to education, even though they have been punished and imprisoned and will have to serve some custodial time as a result of the acts they have committed. The council of Europe, the European Union and the United Nations have all accomplished legislation concerning the rights of prisoners. Some examples.
- Standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners (1955)
This guideline strives for an international consensus on minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners. The various countries each provide the further elaboration of these rules. The standard minimum rules determine that each country has to make sure that their inmates get a decent education. The offer has to resemble the external offer, as good as possible.
Council of Europe
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)12 of the Committee of Ministers to member States concerning foreign prisoners
This recommendation tries to ensure that educational and vocational training is as effective as possible for foreign prisoners. Prison authorities shall take account of their individual needs and aspirations, which may include working towards qualifications that are recognized and can be continued in the country in which they are likely to reside after release.
- Recommendation R(89)12 on education in prison
The R(89)12 consists of recommendations to the EU member states about the educational offer in prison. This recommendation has induced the establishment of the European Prison Education Association (EPEA), who is an associate partner in the FORINER project. The recommendation is based on two assumptions: on the one hand the importance of the normalization principle (prison life should be as close as possible to life outside), on the other hand the importance of establishing, improving or safeguarding the connection between prisoners and life outside.
- European prison rules (2006)
The European Prison Rules are European basic principles about the treatment of prisoners. They argue in particular that the prison regime for all prisoners should focus on reintegration. This is accomplished by education, labour and training from providers outside prison, bringing in their offer on an equal quality standard.
Even though these declarations and recommendations exist and are widely spread, the FORINER partners acknowledge that in practice they are far from being met. Every partner struggles with the realisation of a local educational offer for foreign inmates. We also see that, apart from the Dutch FORINER partner ‘Educatie achter buitenlandse tralies’, there are no organisations providing education to foreign national inmates on a structural basis. It is glaring and uncomfortable to recognize that no sooner action has been taken regarding this issue. The complexity of the problem and the need for Europe-wide cooperation is probably due to this lack of efficacy.