Prisoners chance

Couple days ago I took part during  Council of Europe seminar on “Overview of Sport in European Prisons” organized by Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) in co-operation with the Council for Penological Cooperation (PC-CP) of the Council of Europe, under the Andorran Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

Background of the Seminar

As part of its activities to promote diversity and fight against discrimination in and through sport, the Council of Europe’s Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) organizes political conferences on an annual basis focusing on themes fixed as priorities by its Governing Board. It has decided to concentrate  its actions in 2014 on sport and prisons. In order to prepare the ground for the 2014 political conference on this topic, this expert seminar is being organized on 5 March 2013 to bring together experts from both the penitentiary and sporting authorities in Europe.

Program of the Seminar

1. Existing standards and their implementation;

2. Overview of sport facilities and activities in different types of prisons;

3. Sport activities as a social tool;

4. The way forward: offering appropriate sports and sport facilities.

Various speakers (from policy makers to researches and prisoner authorities) made this seminar very interesting with innovating approaches for countries in Balkan region.

In the Resolution Sport for Prisoners and Young Delinquents (86/3) in article 1, Council of Europe members are invited to:

 “Recognize the value and benefits of physical education and sports activates in prisons and other custodial centers”

Recommendation No. R (89) 12 adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 13 October 1989 and explanatory memorandum ; Having regard to Recommendation No. R (87) 3 on the European Prison Rules and Recommendation No. R (81) 17 on adult education policy:

“All prisoners shall have access to education, which is envisaged as consisting of classroom subjects, vocational education, creative and cultural activities, physical education and sports, social education and library facilities.”

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Sport participation provides a focus for social activity, an opportunity to make friends, develop networks and reduce social isolation; it seems well placed to support the development of social capital (Bailey, 2008). For example, there is a popular view that sport’s non-verbal format can help overcome linguistic and cultural barriers more easily than other areas of social life (Bailey, 2008). Rehabilitation theories are generally based on the proposition that participation in physical activity and sport can lead to improvements in mental health and pro-social behavior, which can lead to a reduction in the propensity to commit crime (Taylor et al., 2000).

Sport serves as a positive diversion, intervention and rehabilitation tool for use with prisoners and vehicle for achieving beyond sport strategies; hook to involve prisoners who mostly reluctant learners are bringing them to the comfort zone, using sport as an effective way for motivating offender.  It is overall aim to create lack of desire from crime activities using sport:

–       Developing social networks

–       Connection for lifelong learning

–       Developing psychological status

–       Developing skills for life after prison detention

The most interesting part of the seminar was related with “Prisoners on the move” project focusing on sport related programs within prison units.  The project has specific objectives:

–        Strengthening networking between cross-sectional organizations/services and providing an  (inter)national platform for future actions;

–        Collecting, sharing and analyzing sport programs and social inclusion in the field of sport and  detention;

–       Examining methodologies and strategies which build up the social competence of prisoners  through sport;

–       facilitating the cooperation between the field of sport and detention to set up common sport  initiatives at all levels;

–       Making informed recommendations to decision makers and preparing future actions in the field of sport and detention.

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This project gave me an idea to start talking with different stakeholders in Montenegro and region with aim to bring an attention regarding this specific issue.  Clearly the biggest challenge is to raise awareness in order to create a network (national or regional) of support for accessing current situation within prison units and based on good practice models proposed during seminar by both policy makers and academics work on strategy and plan of activities for introducing plan of sport programs.  Certainly, system of sport and cultural/societal habits must be taken into account during development process.

At the end one question resounds in my head over and over:

“Is it instead of sporting activities more suitable to prepare curriculum of sport activities (similar to the school subjects curriculum) as a part of overall educational and resocialization process based on inmates needs?”

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