An update on the FORINER project: education for foreign national prisoners

The FORINER project, which was 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. The FORINER project will come to an end in December this year. Project Coordinator Bianca Durkovics gives us an update on how the project has developed this far:

Since the beginning of 2016, the FORINER project took several steps to build an European network. We initiated pilot projects to test different ways of providing foreign national prisoners with education from their home country. Last year’s conference in London brought together organisations from twelve European countries interested in providing education to foreign prisoners in their native language.

Evaluation pilot projects

We carried out fifteen pilot projects within Europe between January and June 2017. The aim was to investigate how to facilitate educational support for EU citizens imprisoned outside their country of residence. Nine countries got involved in these pilots as a sending or receiving partner:

  • Belgium
  • Lithuania
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Malta
  • Norway
  • Romania
  • The Netherlands
  • United Kingdom

35 prisoners followed or are currently following an educational course from their home country. Based on formalised assessment criteria, we selected five of the most representative pilots to evaluate in depth. We expect the results will prove a basis for the FORINER project’s subsequent milestones. The first reactions indicate that the reading skills of the learners increased by following courses in their mother language. Moreover they are mainly motivated to learn about interesting or relevant topics. Before the end of August, prisoners together with sending and receiving partners will be interviewed as part of the process. The answers are valuable for the project, because personal experiences are very important during the pilot phase.

Policy advice

On 25th of September 2017 our partner VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) will present the final results of the pilot evaluation during the Advisory Board Meeting in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Based on this evidence, the FORINER consortium will write a report containing concrete strategy, advice and recommendations to improve the distance education system for foreign national prisoners. We will disseminate the outcome to national and European policy makers. In the end, we will design a model and share it to a large audience. The education institutions from all over Europe will then be able to provide their national prisoners with the same quality standards as the home universities offer.

Final conference

At the end of 2017, the FORINER project will come to an end. On the 28th of November 2017 we will organise an international conference in Brussels, which will be live streamed. We will share the project results with collaborators, stakeholders, policy makers and practitioners that are interested in the FORINER project.

Future directions

In the context of the systematic development of adult learning programs, the FORINER project adds an important “brick”. Therefore we are planning to transfer the experience gained during FORINER into a new project.

We submitted a new project proposal – FORINER II – which aims to upscale the evidence-based outcomes of the FORINER I model. Thirteen different European countries are involved in this project proposal. The European Prison Education Association (EPEA) and EuroPris also joined to support the initiative. If the application will be approved, three ‘upscaling levels’ will be targeted throughout the project.

First of all, FORINER II aims to support the ongoing development of distance educational projects on a local level. This implies doing the actual work inside the prisons, and the continuation of the pilot projects from FORINER I. Secondly, different countries involved will form steering groups to implement the FORINER-model on a national level.

Lastly, on European level, three steering groups will be initiated: sending education, receiving education, and ICT. They will be responsible for creating European guidelines about how to better organise this type of distance learning. The FORINER consortium is convinced that actions on these three levels are necessary to generate more impact on local, national and European level.

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