A view from Europe

28 Apr 2016

Click here to find out more about becoming a member of the European Prison Education Association (EPEA), a network committed to developing education in prisons throughout Europe. 

Planning for International Day of Education in Prison (IDEP) – 13th October – a Spotlight on Sports

Each year the EPEA will to focus on one of the 17 Council of Europe recommendations, which came into force on 13th October 1989. As this is an Olympic year, and being inspired in the city that hosted the first modern Olympics - we have decide to pick access to sports as the 2016 theme. Recommendation 11 says: Physical education and sports for prisoners should be emphasised and encouraged.

We would like to encourage EPEA members from across Europe to hold events during October in celebration and recognition of the Council of Europe recommendations, with a particular focus on sports-based learning. There were examples of successful initiatives across member countries. The Central Region Representative said one prison in Poland organised a half marathon for its prisoners, while our southern representative told us that in Greece one prison installed table tennis tables on the wings. 

Is there something you could do in October to promote sports-based learning in your prison? If you are interested in organising something or are already doing something great involving physical education, please let me know so we can share it with other EPEA members across Europe in our autumn magazine, in a webinar and on social media. (nina@prisonerseducation.org.uk)

Eramus + project funding

It was exciting to hear that the EPEA has now formed a social enterprise to apply for and hopefully participate in European prison education projects funded by Erasmus +. This work is being led by Projects Officer Paul Talbot, who has a wealth of experience in applying for and developing projects. EPEA has applied for five projects on various topics including supporting women prisoners; agricultural entrepreneurship and resilience training for teachers.  We will find out in the summer if any been successful. If you want to find out more about applying for European projects for next year, EPEA will be running a webinar in a few months’ time. If you have any questions in the meantime, let me know!

Romanian postcard project

The Eastern Europe Regional Representative from Romania brought along samples of postcards produced by young people in open prisons with inspiring quotes. Romania has kindly offered for some of the postcards to be made with the EPEA logo and information on the back, so they can be used at events and conferences to promote the EPEA.

Meeting Greek prison teachers

As the meeting was held in Athens, we were fortunate to have dinner with the Hellas Greek branch of the EPEA. They are doing great work in building relationships with the Ministry of Justice and Education and are pushing for ‘prison schools’ in every prison in Greece. The teachers I met were highly enthusiastic and taught a wide range of subjects from Physics to ESOL.  A high proportion of prisoners in Greece are foreign nationals and therefore teaching English is an important element of the education there. I met one teacher whose foreign-national student had just been released and she was very proud that he was about to start university.

Concerns about future of prison libraries and arts in Dutch prisons

The EPEA Chair, Annet Bakker, from the Netherlands, provided the worrying update that that in Dutch prison libraries are disappearing and being replaced with e-readers, and there are limited arts provisions. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture is due to inspect prisons in the Netherlands this year and Dutch colleagues have submitted a report comparing provisions with the Council of Europe recommendations.

New Prison Education Strategy launched in Scotland

Scotland is launching its new prison education strategy at HMP Schotts on 17th May. I will be attending the launch event on behalf of the EPEA and will report back after the event!

Belgian FORINER project

The FORINER project is funded through the EC Erasmus+ Programme and runs from 1st January 2016 to 31 December 2017. The proportion of foreign national prisoners (FNPs) in European jails varies widely between member states. In most eastern European countries the figure is negligible – below 5%, while in Luxembourg, Greece and Cyprus, over 60% of the prison population are foreign born. In the UK, the figure stands at around 12%.

A new project, funded by the EU and run by VOCVO, a Flemish support centre for adult education, wants to find out more about the type and quality of education provided to people incarcerated outside their home countries. The FORINER project aims to find “ambitious and creative solutions” to the barriers that often prevent foreign nationals from accessing learning opportunities. The study will particularly examine the potential role of ICT to facilitate distance learning for these prisoners. Dorien Brosens, a post-doctoral researcher at Vrije University in Brussels, is helping to run the project:

“Due to the enormous differences in culture and political and economical settings across Europe, the educational systems are very diverse,” she says. “Foreign nationals are often excluded from local education due to language problems. And if the prisoner takes part in education, their qualifications are often not recognised when they return to their home country or are not in line with what is expected from employers. If prisoners get access to education provided by their home country, their reintegration into society after their imprisonment will be facilitated.”


For EPEA members, you have the opportunity to join in monthly webinars. In May the topic is dyslexia and follows on from a European training project held in Greece. If you would like to find out more and be part of the webinar, please contact me (nina@prisonerseducation.org.uk). A schedule of other webinar subjects will be available shortly, but if you have any suggestions for topics, please let me know.

EPEA conference 2017

The bids are still open for countries to host the EPEA conference in 2017. For more information see here.

Becoming a member of EPEA

EPEA members become part of a large network of prison education practitioners across Europe; helping share good practice and influencing policy on both a national and international level. Benefits include copies of a bi-annual magazine, the opportunity to take part in webinars and special interest groups and discounted entry to the EPEA conference. I would encourage you to become a member of the EPEA for a one-off payment of €22 ( £17) http://www.epea.org/take-action-with-us/become-a-member/