Update 15th March 2017 – Educational opportunities for European nationals detained in a foreign European country

The European Foriner project wanted to obtain an helicopter overview of the educational opportunities for European citizens imprisoned in a foreign European country. Three steps, all described in the research report, were taken to obtain this helicopter overview. A literature review has been carried out, an online survey has been distributed among educational providers and prison managers in Europe (N= 108 respondents out of 22 different European countries), and based on the results of this online survey, four learning practices across Europe have been selected to investigate in-depth their way of working. Both prisoners and professionals have been interviewed about their experiences with these learning practices. The findings of this research report offer input for the development and implementation of pilot project all over Europe to provide education to European citizens detained in a foreign European country that is offered by their home county. At this moment, five pilot projects are officially up and running. Others are in preparation and will (hopefully) start soon.

Update 15th March 2016

EuroPris & CEP Foreign National Prisoners (FNP) Expert Group meeting, 5 & 6 February 2016.

The FNP Expert Group meet for the first time this year in Bucharest following the EU STEPS 2 Project Conference. It was beneficial to be able to combine the FNP Expert Group meeting after this dissemination  conference on prison transfer through EU Framework Decision 909, given its relevance for Expert Group members. The Expert Group welcomed seven new members joining it, nominated by EuroPris and CEP. EuroPris nominations comprised Jennie von Alten a Prison Governor of the Swedish Prison & Probation Administration, Smiljka Barancek, Head of Unit from the Croatian Prison System Directorate and Isabelle Strome Psychological Advisor, Belgium Prison Service. Henrik Marker, Prison Governor of the Danish Prison Service was unable to attend the meeting in person. New nominated members from the CEP were Sonia Crozier, Deputy Director South East & Eastern National Probation Service, (England & Wales), Iuliana Carbunaru of the Romanian Probation Service and Gerhard Ploeg, Senior Advisor from the Directorate for Correctional Services, Norway.

The work undertaken by Group members to date from the 2015-2017 work plan was reviewed as well as the Group’s redrafted Terms of Reference.

FNP groupIn particularly has been the Research Study undertaken by Dr Roisin Mulgrew of the Expert Group into the implementation of the Council of Europe’s Recommendations on Foreign Prisoners in prisons only holding foreign prisoners. Dr Mulgrew was invited to present her research findings to the CoE’s Council for Penological  Cooperation (PC-CP)  in October 2015 joined by Kirsten Hawlitscheck EuroPris, the joint chair of the FNP Expert Group. The Group concentrated on future planning for a Foreign Prisoners Workshop to be held in November 2016, details to be announced this summer, the establishment of a ‘Good Practise Handbook on Working with Foreign Prisoners’ as well as a briefing event for representatives from European Prison Services on how the CoE’s Recommendations on Foreign Prisoners can and has been put into practise. The FNP Expert Group, which is a unique collaborative Group between EuroPris and the CEP, is looking forward to a busy and productive year in this important subject area using the experience of its prominent members.

Update 15th March 2016

EuroPris members will very shortly be receiving a request from the Foriner Project that their on-line survey questionnaire be forwarded to prison managers and prison educational providers. This is so that a up to date picture is obtained of current initiatives in the education of European foreign national prisoners and the use of ICT facilities in education provision so as to inform the establishment of pilot projects.  The questionnaire will available in Dutch, English, German and French. It would be most appreciated if EuroPris members can assist the Foriener Project by assisting in the distribution of their questionnaire.

More information about the project and the search for partners to set up pilot projects can be found in the leaflet (see link). A Project Conference is being planned in London for June 2016, details to follow when available.

Thank you in advance for sending this survey to others who might be interested. If you have any questions, please contact the coordinator of the Foriner Project directly on:

This EU funded project is designed to meet the educational needs of foreign national prisoners in Europe. This innovative project, led by VOCVO a Flemish support centre for adult education based in Belgium, seeks to address the educational requirements of FNPs in European prisons who’s access to educational programmes is limited due to language issues.  The FORINER Project  partners will design and pilot creative, ICT-driven solutions, to improve educational outcomes for foreign national prisoners in Europe. Project partners are Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, Education Behind Prison  Bars, The Netherlands, and MegaNexus, UK. The Project is funded through the EC Erasmus+ Programme and runs from 1st January 2016 to 31 December 2017. EuroPris is an associated partner and will establish links between the project and our work with Foreign Nationals in Prison. For further information click or contact the project manager Inge van Acker



Providing education in prison is not easy. Both practitioners and policy makers are aware of these difficulties and are constantly looking for measures to improve the educational offer in prison. One of the important issues is the extreme diversity of the prison population. There is not only a variety in length and severity of the punishment, also the inmates’ backgrounds and perpectives differ enormously. An important characteristic that defines a particularly disadvantaged subgroup of inmates is nationality. Whereas national inmates in general speak the official language used in prison, there is always a substantial group of foreign inmates that experiences language problems. Often the educational needs of this subgroup of the prison population are not met due to language restrictions in group courses and the lack of courses provided in a foreign language. The educational possibilities for these inmates are therefore limited to taking a language course in the official language used in the prison. Only the lucky ones find such a course which leads up to a sufficient level of proficiency. And even then it may take a long period of time during which they are not able to develop other skills.

Is providing education for foreign national inmates therefore a lost case?

The FORINER project partners are convinced it isn’t! They strongly believe in the potential of innovative ways of providing education for this particular group of inmates. This belief and the will to cooperate on a European scale led to the introduction of the FORINER project in the spring of 2015.

The FORINER project will design and pilot a creative and ambitious solution to these problems. Given common practice in innovative educational challenges, an ICT-driven solution is desirable. Yet this leads to an even greater challenge because ICT use and internet access is extremely limited in prison settings. However some countries have been pioneering with ICT-systems in recent years, such as the Virtual Campus in the UK and the Prisoncloud system in Belgium. It is therefore a major opportunity to see how these and other structures can be used and/or transformed to meet the FORINER goals and be implemented Europe-wide.

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 cooperation projects’. The European Commission thus recognizes the opportunities FORINER offers. The FORINER project officially runs from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2017.

FORINER partnership

Four partners are formally involved in FORINER:

  • VOCVO (Flemish support center for adult education) based in Belgium and also promotor of the project;
  • VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), also a Belgian partner;
  • Educatie Achter Buitenlandse Tralies or EABT (Education Behind Foreign Prison Bars) from the Netherlands;
  • MegaNexus, an ICT company based in the UK.

All partners have a strong link to prison education. VOCVO is coordinating 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 is now also supporting 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 the Virtual Campus system across UK prisons, in a highly regarded restricted electronic learning environment for prisoners.

FORINER can also count on the cooperation of three associated partners. These partners agreed to the project content and believe in its power. Therefore they share their large networks in support of the project goals. These associated partners are:

  • EPEA, the European Prison Education Association;
  • EuroPris, the practitioner network counting 26 European Prison Services as their members;
  • CEP, the confederation of European probation; also comprising the CEP/EuroPris expert group on foreign national prisoners.


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. To this end a structure will be designed and tested which allows education providers to reach out to their national prisoners in other European countries, at the same quality standard as the home offer. 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 home land, in addition to the local educational offer they are provided with (such as starters language courses of the national language of the country in which they are imprisoned).

  1. Awareness raising and advocacy

The FORINER project aims to develop a structure which is applicable across Europe. Therefore not only the cooperation 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 cooperation 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.

  1. Speed up the digitalisation process in European prisons

Although it is very 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.

FORINER milestones

The project milestones are separated in four phases: preparatory phase, design phase, piloting phase and dissemination phase.


  1. Project kick-off

The official kick-off of the project takes place in January 2015 with a partner kick-off meeting.

  1. Desk research report on existing initiatives

Research report prepared by desk research, online surveys and interviews describing the following aspects:

  1. Target audience description
  2. Existing practices
  3. Best practices
  4. Intensive advocacy and network building

Initial advocacy and network building actions during the preparatory phase. Further advocacy and network building actions will continuously go on during the entire project duration.


  1. Future search event

Large scale brainstorm and concept design event (75 participants of different regions and expertise all contributing to the design of the most desirable, innovative solution).


  1. Pilot project preparation and defining
    1. Pilot project concept design

Defining the number, location and timing of the pilot projects, setting a target for number of learners: digital solution and non digital solution.

  1. Pilot project operational preparation

Creation and implementation of local ICT infrastructure, setting up local administrative and coordination structures, search for and (if needed) purchase of lesson material.

  1. Pilot project realisation

Carrying out of the distance learning courses, digital and non digital.

  1. Pilot project evaluation

A scientific and empirical based evaluation of the pilot projects: learner satisfaction and quality of the implemented infrastructure and procedures.


  1. Policy advice

Creation of policy advice based on the concept design, the pilots and their evaluation.

  1. Dissemination

Dissemination to local, national and European level to both policy makers and practitioners.

Rationale for providing education for foreign inmates

The project aim is produced against the background of the legal and human rights (foreign) inmates have to education, even though they have been punished and imprisoned and will have to serve some custodial time as a result of the acts they have committed. The council of Europe, the European Union and the United Nations have all accomplished legislation concerning the rights of prisoners. Some examples.

United Nations

  1. Standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners (1955)

This guideline strives for an international consensus on minimum rules for the treatment of  prisoners. The various countries each provide the further elaboration of these rules. The standard minimum rules determine that each country has to make sure that their inmates get a decent education. The offer has to resemble the external offer, as good as possible.

Council of Europe

  1. Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)12 of the Committee of Ministers to member States concerning foreign prisoners

This recommendation tries to ensure that educational and vocational training is as effective as possible for foreign prisoners. Prison authorities shall take account of their individual needs and aspirations, which may include working towards qualifications that are recognized and can be continued in the country in which they are likely to reside after release.

  1. Recommendation R(89)12 on education in prison

The R(89)12 consists of recommendations to the EU member states about the educational offer in prison. This recommendation has induced the establishment of the European Prison Education Association (EPEA), who is an associate partner in the FORINER project. The recommendation is based on two assumptions: on the one hand the importance of the normalization principle (prison life should be as close as possible to life outside), on the other hand the importance of establishing, improving or safeguarding the connection between prisoners and life outside.

  1. European prison rules (2006)

The European Prison Rules are European basic principles about the treatment of prisoners. They argue in particular that the prison regime for all prisoners should focus on reintegration. This is accomplished by education, labour and training from providers outside prison, bringing in their offer on an equal quality standard.

Even though these declarations and recommendations exist and are widely spread, the FORINER partners acknowledge that in practice they are far from being met. Every partner struggles with the realisation of a local educational offer for foreign inmates. We also see that, apart from the Dutch FORINER partner ‘Educatie achter buitenlandse tralies’, there are no organisations providing education to foreign national inmates on a structural basis. It is glaring and uncomfortable to recognize that no sooner action has been taken regarding this issue. The complexity of the problem and the need for Europe-wide cooperation is probably due to this lack of efficacy.


© 2014 European Organisation of Prison and Correctional Services - All Rights Reserved, Privacy Policy