Memorandum of Understanding. The (Re-)Integration of (Ex-)Offenders Community of Practice

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1 Memorandum of Understanding The (Re-)Integration of (Ex-)Offenders Community of Practice (Ex-)Offenders CoP This Memorandum of Understanding seeks to define the roles and responsibilities of the partners taking part in the Community of Practice. It sets out how business will be conducted. It builds on the working relationships already established through partners involvement in the former National Equal Offender Networks (NEONs), the National Thematic Networks, and the Equal Policy Forum on (Ex-)Offenders. The purpose of the CoP focusing on Ex-offenders is to establish and develop a European learning network which will standardise, exchange and transfer expertise between the partner Member states. It aims to develop a common strategy to improve the reintegration of (ex)offenders at regional, national and European level in all participating Member States, and beyond, taking into account frames of funding, labour market and legal contexts. Shared Understanding, Philosophy and Principles The CoP aims to improve the reintegration into society of those serving community sentences, prisoners, and those released from prison. With generally high prison populations across Europe and a number of countries reporting a continuing rise in prisoner numbers, and correspondingly high reoffending rates, action is imperative, and will need to encompass a crime prevention and reducing reoffending dimension, whilst also addressing the social integration of ex-offenders into the labour market. The combination of crime prevention strategies and social integration has proven to be successful. Also, for the development of prison organisation and management, transnationality has been and still is a driving force. To do this work, the cooperation of labour, justice and the Third Sector is necessary. A systematic and comprehensive good practice model for the reintegration of (ex-)offenders will need to address the following in both custodial and community settings: Assessment and access to services Training and employment whilst in custody Aftercare/transition management and through the gate services These areas will be further sub-divided into specific themes: diagnosis, profiling and assessment; development of educational and employment related competences, social competences, qualifications for employment, e- learning; collaboration with employers, employer federations and employment agencies; work for prisoners, staff training and development; support services (aftercare, mentoring, engagement with the offender s relatives/family work); quality assurance (evaluation standards; good practice; development of 1

2 organisations). We will also take into account issues relevant and specific to young offenders, women offenders, and those from migrant communities. Work undertaken to date suggests that the presence of the following elements in an offender s sentence plan are indicators of a likely positive outcome, and need to form the basis of a reintegration strategy; Targeted assessment of offender need and risk; Education, training and employment in custody to increase employability skills and qualification levels; Work experience, accreditation and qualifications in custody linked to information, advice and guidance services, and employer links; On release from custody, immediate access to employment and training opportunities, and to qualification routes; A well-structured and supported transition from custody to community; Post-release aftercare to ensure that all issues which may interfere with an ex-offender s resettlement are being addressed; Signposting to support agencies in order to access specific expertise, and remove barriers to reintegration. The most promising approach to offender reintegration has a clear focus on training and employment, whilst simultaneously addressing other potential problem areas reducing employability such as accommodation, finance, drug use, use of leisure time, social and peer networks. This approach, however, can only be successful if all sectors are prepared to collaborate, e.g. those representing the legal and criminal justice agencies; employment, training and education; as well as all relevant Third Sector agencies. The following elements will form the focus of the CoP; Education/training both in custody and in the community Collaboration with employers, employer federations and employment agencies; Quality improvement and change management in prisons; The transition from custody to community and to life outside ; Cooperation between institutions; The network defines itself not only as a transnational, but also as an inter- and trans-governmental network, working across the statutory/public and NGO sector. Work Programme and Aims Based on the experiences and results of a number of projects and programmes, particularly of those funded by ESF, this project aims to set up a process for the exchange of experiences and learning. It will focus on agreed educational and labour market measures which support the social integration of ex-offenders. It is hoped that through exchange and standardisation the basic conditions (legal, political, administrative, technical support) which foster 2

3 the reintegration of ex-offenders can be improved. The major aim of this project is to build up a knowledge base and a learning network as a basis for the transfer of good practice, concepts and strategies for the regional, national and European work on resettlement. The exchange aims to improve the educational situation in prison and the integration into the labour market post-release. Underpinned by best practice in transition management, reintegration of ex-offenders into society and the labour market improves, meeting the demands of law and society whilst reducing the risk of reoffending. We want to use a range of learning strategies and teaching methods to define, assess and disseminate our knowledge. We need to be prepared to offer access to our organisations and ways of cooperation in order to facilitate the transfer of learning across the network: Exchange and dissemination through conferences/seminars/workshops learning through face to face contact; Transfer and dissemination of experiences, learning and materials by way of a web-based knowledge management platform (IT platform: e- portal). In addition to the general work of the CoP, it will be necessary to form a working group which will focus specifically on evaluation and the formulation of common standards. It will need to establish the criteria used to define good practice, constructive and effective work, and agreed common standards. The experts attending the workshops will be grappling with the differences between the Member States, their differing legal systems, ways of organising resettlement and labour market integration, the range of organisations and agencies involved in each countries reducing reoffending agenda, and will need to find a way of facilitating discussion which allows the transnational group to make comparisons between systems, and transfer knowledge across linguistic and governmental borders. In addition, it will be necessary to find a way of pooling and sharing the knowledge based on experiences and learning in each Member State. The knowledge management portal, used Europewide, can facilitate this; the challenge will be to facilitate access for all partners, and to ensure that all partners actively contribute (this comprises partners representing the range of agencies involved with the reducing reoffending agenda: labour market agencies, those representing the justice and legal system, NGO partners). Through the process of exchanges and the formulation of common criteria for evaluation this ESF CoP will develop a range of models of good practice in reducing reoffending through social and labour market integration, but will also demonstrate models of good practice in the way transnational projects can be run, and agencies can collaborate across internal and external borders. It is essential that the areas of education, training, labour and justice form much closer working relationships on all levels. Those in charge of strategy 3

4 development in the labour market must work more closely with colleagues delivering education and training services in custody to ensure that learning in prison is relevant and meets the demands of the labour market. Close collaboration with the Third Sector should ensure much improved levels of social integration. It will be the task of the CoP network to work on a common view and understanding, to demonstrate examples of good practice, and to develop and disseminate reintegration strategies. Tasks: The assessment of reintegration strategies and their fit across different levels Identification and dissemination of examples of good practice, where available Suggestions and proposals for reintegration strategies The transfer of methods and good practice examples which fosters learning between partners (practical examples, experiences, tools) Working through and presenting of experiences and results Evaluation and validation of strategies developed and used by the CoP Transfer and dissemination through other networks linked to the CoP Agreement: The undersigning institution agrees to be a partner of CoP network and Recognises the importance of strategies and actions to promote active labour market policies for vulnerable groups, and to implement the renewed Lisbon strategy and the social policy agenda through their promotion Implements, if possible, conclusions and recommendations of the European CoP (Ex-)Offenders in order to improve the quality of governance of public policies, programmes and actions of European Structural Funds at OP level which meet the needs of social disadvantaged, unemployed (Ex-)Offenders. Agrees to mutually support and assists all network members in the design and delivery of relevant ESF actions with the aims of maximising synergies and complementarities in our activities, and of maximising benefits through exchange, validation mainstreaming of good practise. The all-embracing objective of this European Network is to create a common view on educational and vocational training strategies in order to enhance the effectiveness of measures targeting the resettlement of (ex-) offenders on the labour market. Furthermore to use synergies and promote social inclusion by developing a common work approach and building up a forum for debate and knowledge exchange. The sharing of learning strategies, initiatives and 4

5 approaches based on experience and best practices as well as the dissemination and standardisation of that knowledge are its major aims. The public authorities are responsible for promoting the economic and social wellbeing of their communities. This includes reducing crime. Cutting rates of reoffending and social exclusion by an improved reintegration into society reduce the common expenditures. By signing the Memorandum partners make a commitment to develop, define and actively support the politics of reintegration of ex-offenders. The CoP will contribute to the drawing up of European guidelines on offender reintegration, and to the shaping of EU support structures. The challenge is to undertake further work on the tasks outlined in the draft document European Union level Recommendations for the re-integration of (ex)offenders, and to translate them into practice. The partners are also committed to introduce the results and the learning gained from participation in the CoP into their own national political arena (labour market politics; judicial and legal contexts; support structures including financial). The strategies for social integration and the good practices developed by the CoP network are innovative methods. The partners are keen to see those translated into the ESF Operational Programmes in their own countries and regions, and will lend their support to facilitate this process. The network would want to encourage the translation of CoP results into new ESF support programmes. By the end of the programme support period, it aims to establish an European Prison Day, and would like to see the programme recommendations turned into practice and policy. The partners pledge to: Contribute actively to the development and organisation of the network and its tasks Participate in at least one working group, and to nominate experts and representatives for the working groups, seminars and conferences; Set up an editorial group in their region/country to contribute to the development of the knowledge portal; Secure funding to finance the participation of their representatives at network activities and joint actions. To be aware of a long lasting function of the CoP network (also after the project phase) and its cooperativeness in improving the infrastructure at transnational level. 5

6 Dates of this Memorandum of Understanding The grant project runs from 01 January 2009 until the 31 st December This memorandum is intended to cover the entire grant period. Termination of Memorandum of Understanding This agreement may be terminated by either party provided not less than thirty days (30) written notice to intent to terminate is given and an opportunity for prior consultation is provided. Signatures: This Memorandum of Understanding is entered into on Signatures: 6

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