Changing Landscapes – Prison Education Consortium Netherlands

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Co-funded by the Erasmus+ ProjectWith the project “Changing Landscapes”, the Prison Education Consortium Netherlands wants to ensure that prisoners get the best possible education, which will guide them onto the right pathways.

The consortium consists of eight organizations, the EPEA-NL (European Prison Education Association- Dutch Branch) is the leading partner. The other partners are: Valk&Uil, Changes & Chances, CHAINS, EBFB (Education Behind Foreign Bars), Click F1, NHC (Netherlands Helsinki Committee) and De Nieuwe Kans.

Shaping an expert group consortium has been a strategic move initiated by the EPEA-NL, to help all involved to become more effective in reaching their goals. The expert group consortium started as PEC-NL in 2014 with four member organizations, the current consortium has doubled its member organizations since. The organization of education in Dutch prisons is very diverse, therefore it is important to tackle issues with different organizations to form a broad perspective.

The organizations currently involved in the consortium cover most aspects of this very specific field. They are involved in a wide range of activities, from everyday classroom teaching to developing innovative approaches like new digital tools. Although the 10.000 prisoners in the Netherlands are the main target group, some organizations work with other more specific groups like Young at Risk, disadvantaged learners, illiterate or dyslectic inmates and Dutch inmates in foreign countries.

The overall purpose of this expert group consortium is to create an Innovative Plan for Prison Education by 2024. We will start writing this in 2017 and finish it before the end of 2018. This plan is also an important element of the project. In the plan the expert group consortium will define a vision on the future of prison education in The Netherlands.

Through our good contacts with the top of the Dutch Prison Service, with prison staff and prison teachers we will be able to share the plan with all actors in the field. All mobilities will directly feed the Innovative Plan for Prison Education 2024. To obtain the knowledge needed, we will follow courses, visit conferences and will be involved in job shadowing activities. We will also share our knowledge by giving workshops at conferences and by organizing courses.

Due to budget cuts within the Dutch Prison Service education has not been very high on the agenda in recent years, therefore knowledge about education within the prison system is quickly vaporizing. To prevent this, the long-term goal for 2024 is that the expert group consortium from EPEA-NL will be the central source of information for local, national, European and international stakeholders working in prison education. For this, the European Development Plan 2024 will be created together.

This underscores the importance for development in prison education in general and mainly from the perspective of each organization. This plan stresses the need for development for each organization in order to reach the consortium’s goals in 2024. With each goal, the action plan will also be specified per organization. Each organization of the expert group consortium has its own specific goals that we will combine to be more efficient. The EPEA-NL will be leading the expert group, they will coordinate these meetings.

The main areas for improvement that have been identified for all organizations must be evaluated after each mobility. The EPEA-NL monitors the process of the European Development Plan. Ultimately all will benefit from the project “Changing Landscapes”.

By collaborating in this consortium, all stakeholders will become better informed and stronger. For prisoners, education will help them to make steps in their personal development and steps to the labour market, the Dutch Prison System will obtain valuable knowledge about recent developments in this specific field, other organizations elsewhere in Europe working with inmates will benefit from the knowledge that the consortium has acquired, that we will be sharing with them and prison teachers who often work in an isolated position in their institutions can learn from colleagues elsewhere in Europe.

by Veronique Aicha

-Chair EPEA NL

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