The FORINER project was launched on the 1st January 2016 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 To this end a structures were designed and tested that allowed education providers to reach out their national prisoners in other EU countries, at the same quality standard as the home offer.
European Recognition Through Erasmus+
In July 2015 the FORINER project was selected by the European Commission to be funded through the European programme Erasmus+. FORINER was submitted to the Key Action 3 (support for policy reform) call ‘Forward-looking co-operation projects’. The European Commission thus recognises the opportunities that FORINER offers. The FORINER project ran from 1st January 2016 to 31 December 2017.
There are four primary partners involved in FORINER:
- VOCVO (Flemish support centre for adult education) based in Belgium and also promoter of the project;
- VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), also operating in Belgium;
- Educatie Buitenlandse Tralies or EABT (Education Behind Foreign Prison Bars) from the Netherlands;
- MegaNexus Ltd, an ICT company based in the UK.
All partners have a strong link to prison education. VOCVO is co-ordinating prison education in Flanders and Brussels prisons. VUB has done extensive research work regarding prisoners’ participation in correctional programmes (e.g. education, vocational training, library) in the prison of Antwerp, and supports the prison of Gent in conducting research about the active participation of inmates in the organisation of prison life. EABT has been providing education for Dutch inmates in foreign prisons for ten years, and MegaNexus has implemented and maintained the Virtual Campus, a highly regarded restricted electronic learning environment, across UK prisons for the last 10 years.
FORINER also involves the co-operation of four additional associated partners. These partners agreed to the project content and believe in its impact. They therefore share their large networks in support of the project goals. The associated partners are:
- EPEA, the European Prison Education Association
- EuroPris, the practitioner network counting 26 European Prison Services as members
- CEP, the Confederation of European Probation
- Weston College, educational provider to prisons in the UK
The following goals are pursued by the project:
1. Access to education offered by their home country
The ambition of the FORINER project is to provide foreign national inmates in European prisons with access to qualitative, low threshold, certified learning opportunities provided by home institutions but received by the inmate in a foreign prison. Both an ICT-driven and a non-ICT-driven solution will be designed. The strategic ambition is that if each European country provides home education materials to their foreign national inmates, it will logically mean for each country that a better offer will be present for the foreign inmates in their own prisons. They will therefore all be provided with access to education from their homeland, in addition to the local educational offer they are provided with (such as starter language courses of the national language of the country in which they are imprisoned).
2. Awareness raising and advocacy
The FORINER project aims to develop a structure which is applicatble across Europe. Therefore not only the co-operation of the project partners is needed, but also as many other partners (practitioners and policy makers) across Europe as possible. The success rate of the project concept is largely dependent on the co-operation rate of other European partners. The more countries involved, the more foreign national inmates will have access to a qualitative home educational offer. The FORINER project thus does not only focus on creation of the solution and piloting tests, but at the same time invests largely in setting up advocacy and awareness raising actions to promote the project idea and concept across Europe. Every seed that is planted will contribute in time to the project goals.
3. Speed up the digitalisation process in European prisons
Although it is ambitious to focus on a digital learning solution for a prison environment, the FORINER partners are convinced that it may soon become a reality across Europe. As Europe is taking further steps in the digital era, also in prison structures and services with digital solutions are starting to find their way. There seems to be a pioneering mentality in some countries, wishing to change the system, making it more flexible and thus being able to provide a better environment for prisoners in general. As the digital evolution is expanding outside prison doors, the prison system is bound to follow at some point. The FORINER project intends to speed up this process and show the unique opportunities that ICT-supported education can give to prisoners.