Europris is the European organisation of Prison services and recently EPEA has enforced her collaboration with this organisation. As you probably know we asked Europris to dedicate an Expert Group on Prison Education Management. Many countries are, or just have been, reforming their prison education policies, but do not have good resources to inform eachother about good practices on policy level.
We are always warmly invited to attend their annual Conference and AGM (Annual General Meeting).
This year the Norwegian Prison Service, led by Marianne Vollan, hosted this event on Monday 19th June. Lillestrom, just out of Oslo city, offered a beautiful venue for this event in which mostly Direction Generals of European Prison services participated. Other partners, such as the Council of Europe, EPTA, EPRF, were also represented.
Interesting for us, EPEA, is to hear the reports of the many Expert Groups that Europris hosts. These expert groups always have representatives of 10 member countries discussing one topic during two years in which they meet twice and exchange ideas, policies and practices. All expert groups produce a defined, feasible outcome in the form of a report or maybe a database. This year the new Prison Education Expert Group reported about their first meeting that had taken place only last week in Cyprus. You will be able to read more about this event in another report that our representative will publish in this or the next newsletter.
Theme of the Conference was ‘women in prison’. Dr. Maartje Krabbe of the Radboud University – Nijmegen introduced us into the results of a recent study on this subject. ( “The Bangkok Rules and beyond”)
Prison Visits: Ullersmo, Kroksrud and Ringerike (Hønnefosse)
I was fortunate to combine my visit to Norway with meeting some Norwegians colleagues (Members of FOKO – EPEA’s Norwegian branch) and visits to a few prisons. So, on Tuesday, I met Cecilie Hoisaeter (EPEA SC Secretary), Paal Breivik (Director of Norwegian Prison Schools), Anne H. Horsberg, Terje Rostvaer and joined them on their visit to the Ullersmo prison, where Oyvind Lunde generously received us for a guided tour and elaborate explanation of the Norwegian PE system. Our Norwegian colleagues were very patient also did most of their conversation in English on my behalf. Ullersmo, a high security prison, is undergoing a modernization with a completely new wing that will be opened on the 30th this month. Part of this prison is dedicated to prisoners that go to Holland or the execution of their sentence. The prison teachers deal mostly with the other prisoners. We had an interesting meeting with the career councellors and some of the teachers. We all know that the Norwegian policy is rather generous compared to the maths that other countries use, whilst deciding how many teachers are needed. Ullersmo Prison has a team of some 18 teachers on a present capacity of 192 prisoners. Since the school is financed by and inspected by the Ministery of Education, the curriculum is very much the same as in n/formal education on upper secondary level. Many teachers, many subjects and full schooldays paid the same for as working in one of the workshops. Of course collaboration with the colleagues of the Justice department is in each prison created according to the local possibilities. It was inspiring to see the impressive wood- and metal workshops and the way training and learning opportunities are sought in joint efforts with the prison staff.
Oyvind Lunde, Anne H. Horsberg, Annet Bakker, Cecilie Hoisaeter, Paal Breivik and Terje Rostvaer
In the next prison, Kroksrud, that is formally under the same management – a low security prison not far from Ullersmo. Our visit coincided with the open day for external partners. We learned amongst others about the dog-training project, the cooking – music- and greenhouse project. Our lunch was healthy, artistic and beautifully created by some of the students, that had just the week before done their cooking exams! It needs no explanation that they had successfully passed these exams!
For my last day in Norway, Cecilie had arranged a meeting with Geir Dahl for me in the Ringerike Prison, at 1,5 hour busdrive from Lillestrøm.
Beautiful landscape made the time fly and before I knew it I reached my destination. Head of the prison school, Geir Dahl, also treasurer of FOKO – the Norwegian EPEA branch, took me to his prison and answered my many questions. The school was in its last days before the summer holiday. Geir explained that some teachers had opted to stay to deliver summercourses, to at least offer some educational activities during the 2 months break. 18 teachers in this high security- facility. Prisoners stay a few years on average, so time to prepare their upper secondary exams. Walking over the premises Geir shows me the B,C & D wings, each with their own focus; D mostly hosts those that have full time education. B-wing hosts those that work in the wood-workshop and C those of the metal-workshop. A-wing is max. security and hosts all newcomers and offers less activities. I meet the one Dutch prisoner in one of the workshops. He is making up his mind about doing the rest of the sentence here in Norway or asking to do the last months in Holland. The Framework 909 decision obviously offers more and more prisoners to be transferred to a prison in their own country. Difficult choice in this case, because this prison offers more facilities than the one in his home country. Many of the facilities had been constructed with the help of the school and their training classes, like the woodwork-training facility and the family-house, but also the regular art performances (theater/ concerts) that could be organised with the financial support of the school.
Geir and I discussed how the national school management and the FOKO organisation both organize national conferences with a slightly different focus. Where subject related exchange and national policy were already taken care of by Paal Breivik and his team, FOKO tried to deliver more subjects as learning problems or dealing with aggression, alongside with the more international subjects. Then there also is the Nordic Conference, in which PE colleagues of all the Scandinavian countries meet and exchange their experience.
Finally we looked at the way EPEA is reaching out to her members with the monthly and regional newsletters. This is highly appreciated.
All in all I can say that I spent a couple of interesting and also pleasant days in Norway. Please bear in mind that for activities like this; having a look over the wall – visiting colleagues and finding out about other prison education systems – Erasmus offers great opportunities though the KA1 job shadowing funds. A branch can help you by applying for these funds for her members.