EDUCATE: Educators for inclusive and effective reintegration for inmates

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October 2018, Bistrița Penitentiary, Romania

The Erasmus+ Key Action 2 Project, “EDUCATE: Educators for inclusive and effective reintegration for inmates”, launched in November 2016 and addresses the challenge for a more inclusive and effective reintegration of inmates.

As a Strategic Partnership supporting exchange of good practices, the project’s the primary goals are to allow partner organisations to share experiences, approaches and work methodologies in the field of adult inmates education. The exchange process aims to improve the staff profile of involved organisations, promoting self-awareness and increasing, from a qualitative and quantitative point of view, the competences of educators who are working in prisons and in structures for criminal measures as an alternative to detention.

The partnership consists of the following institutions and organisations:

  • stakeholder: “L’Ovile” Social Solidarity Cooperative, Reggio Emilia – Italy
  • Bistrita Penitentiary – Romania
  • Sapana – Lisbon, Portugal
  • You In Europe – Nea Moudania, Greece
  • Noesso – Almeria, Spain

During the 1styear, through three training activities (Reggio Emilia – Italy; Bistrita – Romania, Almeria – Spain), the participants had the opportunity to exchange and share good practices. Through 16 visits and 32 experiences examples, 28 participants from 5 countries shared their valuable knowledge on the following sectors:

  1. work inclusion
  2. alternative measures to detention
  3. activities in local community
  4. education

By visiting 4 prisons from the participants countries, (Estabelecimento Prisional de Caxias – Lisbon, Portugal; Casa circondariale e Ospedale psichiatrico giudiziario – Reggio Emilia, Italy; Penitenciarul Bistrita, Romania; Centro Penitenciario “El Acebuche” – Almeria, Spain), the participants gained knowledge and experience on advantages and disadvantages that each penal system presents and they noticed the differences and similarities among them.

The inclusion of the inmates and ex-inmates in the working industry is a tremendous challenge for every organization or individual involved in this scope.

Apart from the usual and classic ways that the prisons implement on an inmate’s labour market reintegration, the participants explored some more innovative and functional methods. Some were already implemented by partners organisations such as ‘Reincorpora’ – a project run by NOESSO (Almeria, Spain).

Through this project which is especially targeting  inmates, out of the almost 2,100 detainees from all over Spain that participated in 2017 in this program, 1,600 succeeded in finishing it. But the most important is that 1,150 were hired and they have found a job in the network of 800 collaborating companies that were involved in this approach. The fact that 3 out of 4 inmates that were part of the Reincorpora program were hired after completing it, represents the most powerful argument in sustaining the need for an implementation of this approach and as well as the necessity for creating more projects like this.

L’Ovile’’s strategy in inmates labour market reintegration also impressed the participants, since through a holistic methodology it provided personnel for the industry sector, the cleaning services of the municipality, the environmental and agricultural services, and provided a better future to the beneficiaries.

A big step for the inmates better social reintegration is the alternative measure to detention, and their accommodation in apartments within the city. This practice applied from three of the participant organisations (NOESSO, L’OVILE and ONISIM Reintegration Centre –  involved by Bistrița Penitentiary) gave the chance to low risk prisoners to gain a normal everyday life, to develop their social skills, to fight the stigma and to build their self-confidence.

During the first year of the project, the participants got a clear idea of how important initiatives concerning the activities developed in community and with its support were. Projects run by the partners organisations that help refugees, people with mental disabilities, ex-drug addicts, unaccompanied teenagers and other people in vulnerable situations, show that everyone can make a better future if they will be given the right support and are involved in the social network in a prosperous way.

Also, through workshops in cooperation with universities, such as theatre and creative writing (Greece), theatre perfomance in public spaces out of the prison (Romania) and through voluntary innitiatives, like meditation/mindfulness lessons or Corporate Social Responsibility projects (Portugal), the participants broadened their horizons on how they can improve the reality and everyday life of the inmates.

All the above training activities provided knowledge to all the participants to create the ‘ideal’ educator’s profile, and to approach the current programs of Bistrita Prison through S.W.O.T. analysis method, and to evaluate the overall activities of “NOESSO” N.G.O using specific, scientific tools.

By the end of the 1st  year of the project, with very positive impressions, all partners were looking forward to continue efforts for sharing knowledge, ideas and good practices in order to have even more useful outcomes and as well as tools  that could be used to support the inmates’ and the ex-inmates’ better reintegration in the labour market and society.

During the last transnational meeting that took place in Bistrita (Romania), in June 2018, the five partner organisations evaluated the results from the focus groups from in each country by their relevant local stakeholders and produced the final version of the project’s outcomes:

1. Profile of the Educator working with persons deprived of liberty

2. Model of promoting the social reintegration after release from prison

3. Model of an inmates integration into labor market

4. Reintegration actions in Europe (video documentary)

5. Collection of good practices – labor  integration

6. Collection of good practices – social reintegration

Hoping that these outputs will be a helpful tool in the field of effective integration, they are available to anyone interested in the official website of the project.

Also available on the website is the video documentary by Georgios Trantas (Greece), presenting the good practices that were shared by partners during the project.

All the above materials, as well as the methodology that the partners used and  their impressions after this two years experience will be presented during the final event of the project, that will take place at the beginning of October 2018, themed “How European good practice exchanges help and support educators to develop their knowledge, competences and activity”.