November 9, 2021

The Expert team of the EU funded project “Improving Capacities of the Prison Administration in the Area of Alternative Sanctions, Post-penal care and Healthcare in Serbia”, whose beneficiary is the Serbian Administration for Enforcement of Penal Sanctions, organised a training for representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGO) that provide support to ex-convicts upon release. The training, that started on 27 July 2021 and was completed on 8 September 2021, represents a continuation of the training for trainers implemented within the project. The first part of the training, focused on basic trainer skills, apart from representatives of NGOs, included also treatment officers, commissioners and employees of the Special Prison Hospital. Workshops for improving specific skills for other groups of professionals will be carried out in the upcoming period.

Six representatives of the NGOs “Neostart“, “Posle kise”, “Izlazak” and “Restart” participated in the training which was  designed to enable them to provide further training of people who will directly work with ex-convicts on providing post-penal assistance and support. For this reason, this type of training is called ‘training of trainers’.  Through workshops and presentations, the participants had a chance to improve and build upon their knowledge in principles of post-penal practice, humanity, confidentiality, accessibility, professionalism and other skills and techniques required for supporting this vulnerable population. Further to improving their knowledge, the participants gained skills that would help them transfer the knowledge to other activists working with ex-convicts.    

The period after release and transfer from a correctional facility to a community is particularly delicate one for a former inmate, and followed by variety of difficulties. Many of those released do not have adequate accommodation, their level of education or professional qualifications is insufficient as is their self-esteem. Furthermore, they can experience psychological problems or narcotic abuse. On the other hand, ex-prisoners themselves could have prejudice towards the community they return to, expecting negative reactions of society towards them.   

The role of NGOs in this post penal care process has been irreplaceable in Serbia, as well as in the European Union countries. NGOs provide support and advice to former inmates who often find themselves in weak and vulnerable circumstances after release from prison. Therefore, it is crucial to continuously improve the professional skills of people from the civil sector who work directly with former inmates. This kind of training is significant to help bridge the gap and social distance between those who need assistance and those who can provide that assistance, aimed at easing and facilitating the process of reintegrating former convicts in their communities, thus enabling them to function in society as equal citizens and distract them from a criminal path.     

The Administration for Enforcement of Penal Sanctions has been building a collaboration with the civil society sector in this field for years and the training carried out within this project should improve the existing collaboration, and with that improve the quality of release preparation of convicted persons.

The 1.4 million euro EU financed project has been operational since September 2019, and ends in May 2022.