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Short description / Current status and future steps / Lessons learned:
= Case description =
Since the state reform of 1980, people-specific matters have come
under the jurisdiction of the French, Flemish and German-speaking
communities, while more country-specific matters remain under
federal jurisdiction. Thus, the Flemish government is responsible for
‘social assistance to prisoners with a view to their social reintegration’.
However, no single policy or common framework of how to rehabilitate
and reintegrate prisoners in the society existed. In this context, in
consultation with the Ministry of Justice, a proposal was formulated to
set up a strategic plan for the provision of assistance and services to
The strategic plan details how prisoners in Flemish prisons can best
practise their fundamental right to social provision and services, and
determines the way in which this will be coordinated. This strategic plan
was drafted and endorsed in cooperation with Federal and Flemish
Community stakeholders, and is now operationally deployed on all
levels within the respective organisations. The key objectives of the plan
are a better quality of services to prisoners, stimulating awareness of
the programmes, extending the collaboration between both partners,
ensuring a better understanding by the community and finally the support
of operational staff that provide assistance and services in prisons.
Implementation of the strategic plan in prisons was always accompanied
by increased awareness, concrete action plans, training initiatives on
the work floor and the follow-up of results by a supra local working
group. On the strategic management level, a coordinating Minister
and his administration were chosen to supervise all stakeholders from
the Flemish Community. A steering group with all these departments
was created to coordinate on the supra local level. At the level of the
Federal authorities, the regional prison directors translated the strategic
objective into an operational objective for all the local prison directors.
The Flemish Community and their Federal counterparts collaborated on
improving the operational level within the different prisons. This means
that both parties are continually involved in the day-to-day decisionmaking
processes. The choice to develop a structural and supra local
agreement to support the successful reintegration of prisoners in the
community has several advantages such as improved durability, a
decreased susceptibility to fluctuations in the political environment, the
fostering of best practices and a more expanded and uniform value
proposition towards the prisoners.
The programme has already had a number of positive effects: there has
been a substantial increase in the provision of assistance and services
to prisoners and greater participation by prisoners in the programmes
offered. The different government stakeholders have worked together
to achieve more structurally aligned policies, shared leadership, clear
accountability, and more efficient use of resources. The programme’s
ongoing success has received growing interest from the French
community to develop a similar modus operandi.