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Bringing Together Penitentiary Academy Experts to Improve Prison Education Across Europe 

12 November 2019

What have internships meant for not only the training of Estonian prison staff but also the development of the prison service as a whole? How have personality tools improved innovated notions of dynamic security in Belgian prisons? And how do Europe’s best practices in penitentiary training compare to the Council of Europe guidelines developed and adopted in April 2019? These questions and more were at the heart of three Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings, organised by the NHC and its partners as part of the EU-funded project Tackling Gaps in Cross-Border Cooperation for Penitentiary Training Academies.

In October, experts from penitentiary training academies representing ten countries came together to begin work on a report on Europe’s most innovative and effective practices related to penitentiary training on leadership, dynamic security and managing difficult inmates. The purpose of this type of cooperation and knowledge exchange amongst experts is to improve the quality of training of prison staff on a European level.

Members of the European Penitentiary Training Academies (EPTA) Network identified leadership, dynamic security, and managing difficult inmates as the most pressing in current debates. While prison systems across Europe naturally face different challenges in varying contexts, these topics have repeatedly played a central role in prison reforms across the continent. One example is the importance of substantial leadership and management training for senior prison management, brought up time and again in discussions. During the meeting, experts from the SIGs shared varying practices with one another such as evidence-based qualification profiles, specialized training on stress management and mentoring. A common thread seen across the three topics was the continuing transition from conventional prison management techniques to more rehabilitative and cognitive psychology-based approaches, be it in the form of innovating dynamic security trainings or the involvement of prisoners in their own risk assessment.

The October meetings are part of a larger development process in which the SIGs will first write a report on the best practices of European penitentiary training academies today. Next year, the groups will focus on establishing minimum standards on prison staff training and finally develop a handbook on the implementation of these trainings. All of these materials will be made openly available on the EPTA website.

Click here to learn more about the EPTA network or here to find out what the NHC is doing to create more sustainable and dynamic cooperation across penitentiary training academies in Europe.