A view of the seminar room
A view of the seminar room

On 13 and 14 November 2018, the IRZ, together with the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR), organised a second seminar on “Social and psychological support for prisoners” in Rabat, Morocco. The event was held as part of a project on “Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco on Prison Management”, which is being coordinated by the IRZ between 2017 and 2019 and supported by the German Foreign Office.

As part of the welcoming ceremony, the representative of the DGAPR, Reolonane Koutane, praised the cooperation between Germany and Morocco, represented by the IRZ and the DGAPR. He said that the project had led to important starting points for improving work in prison management.

One objective of the project is to develop mediation institutions for prisoners, in particular with a view to their social, psychological and family care. Civil society institutions should be given a bigger role to play here. During the seminar, the necessary conditions and potential approaches to implementation were identified.

On the German side, two employees from the Berlin prison system were involved in the seminar as IRZ experts:

  • Dr. Angelika Burghardt-Kühne, a psychologist at the Heidering penal institution, and
  • Vera Schiepe, Group Leader at the Heidering penal institution.

Since the protection of society and reintegration of prisoners also play a central role in German prisons, both experts reported on the role of psychologists in these areas. They reported that, in Germany, all prison staff are required by law to work together to achieve these goals. Their firm responsibilities are determined by internal regulations, whilst the organisation structure of the relevant penal institutions results in cooperation between all prison staff. Diagnoses made by psychologists in prisons play a central role when it comes to the type of sentence. Their recommendations are presented at a law enforcement conference where resolutions are passed to make them legally binding. In the event of any conflicts, moderation by social workers is a necessary part of conflict management. Their role also includes intervening in urgent crises.

The lectures by Dr. Angelika Burghardt-Kühne and Vera Schiepe were met with a great deal of interest by the participants. The subsequent lively discussions were mainly about the different roles played by psychiatrists and social workers. Rules of conduct in extreme situations and the status and binding nature of the enforcement plan were also discussed. 

The seminar was part of the project component, which aims to improve the psychological and social care of prisoners, particularly in view of networking for prisoners and improved connections with their social environment and society. This is a matter of improved care and support, as well as psychological observation and treatment for prisoners and involving their family environment and civil society.

About the role of the DGAPR

The main goals of the DGAPR are the protection of society and the humane treatment of prisoners. The work of psychologists in Moroccan prisons plays a central role here, since it helps prisoners with their integration in prison life and also with their reintegration into society after they leave prison. The training sessions carried out until now by the DGAPR in this area have already brought results, with prison officers increasingly fulfilling their roles as people for prisoners to refer to and contact. 

A decentralised policy should also help to achieve better integration of prisoners with mental health problems. The family environment plays a central role in the support of prisoners and improving their situation. The use of tools such as biometric techniques combined with training programmes for prisoners support the DGAPR’s strategy for reducing the relapse rate.