Seminar on “Social and psychological support for prisoners” held in Casablanca

Participants and speakers at the seminar in Casablanca
Participants and speakers at the seminar in Casablanca

On 27 and 28 March 2019, the IRZ, together with the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR) held a third seminar on “Social and psychological support for prisoners” in Casablanca, Morocco. The event was held as part of the “Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco on Prison Management” project, which is running from 2017 until 2020 with the support of the German Foreign Office.

Two experts from the Berlin prison system were appointed by the IRZ to speak at the seminar: Dr. Angelika Burghardt-Kühne, Psychologist, and Vera Schiepe, Group Leader, both of whom work at the Heidering penal institution.

Building on the previous seminars, the main focus of this event was on the following topics:

  • how prisoners deal with their crimes,
  • measures to support staff as they supervise prisoners,
  • support for reintegration measures through work-release programmes and
  • involvement of families in therapeutic measures.

For the reintegration of prisoners in Morocco, training and informal education measures are mainly offered to combat illiteracy and provide further training for prisoners. There are also measures in place for organising leisure activities and psychological support for prisoners. The DGAPR also offers a “national mental health programme” and a “national programme for preventing and combating drug addiction”. As part of the latter, working groups have been set up in five penal institutions to fight addiction in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. Social workers, social assistants, psychologists, and general practitioners work together in these working groups. Another important contribution towards the reintegration of prisoners is made by Moroccan civil society, with cultural programmes and training measures.

In Germany and Morocco, similar programmes are carried out for the reintegration and support of prisoners. In Germany, for example, a prisoner’s family is also involved in their reintegration measures, although this involvement is more limited than in Morocco. Another important programme in Germany helps prisoners to deal with their crimes, which is also set out in the law governing the prison system. By developing their appreciation of the problem, prisoners should be able to take responsibility for their actions. The prison officers’ ability to empathise and the joint development of alternative courses of action with prisoners have an important role to play here.

The experts from both countries established similar difficulties in the handling of certain groups of prisoners. Dealing with prisoners who refuse to come to terms with their crimes is a particular challenge in both countries, since participation in these programmes is voluntary in Morocco and Germany. In particular for high-risk offenders, the experts believe that there are only very limited treatment options available.

One of the main tasks for prison staff is to motivate prisoners to take part in reintegration measures. To ensure that staff are successful in this task, they need to be supported by therapeutic measures and an everyday climate that encourages treatment. Officers should be able to talk about their experiences in a protected environment. That’s why training courses covering various disciplines are essential as supporting measures.

For high-risk offenders, VERA 2 is a new European-wide instrument for assessing risk and this has already been introduced in the first German penal institutions. In Morocco, there continues to be a need for guidelines and handbooks so that social and psychological care for prisoners can be improved. The IRZ has, in close cooperation with its partners at the DGAPR, responded to this requirement with its project and set up a working group in this area as well. The objectives of this working group include appointing a pilot institution, in which a handbook planned by the working group will be introduced.

Moroccan public prosecutors visit Berlin for a study visit on legal and forensic medicine

Participants in the study visit in front of the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection
Participants in the study visit in front of the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection

From 18 to 22 March 2019, the IRZ in Berlin hosted ten public prosecutors from various regions of Morocco for a study visit on “Ways to achieve successful cooperation between the justice system and legal and forensic medicine.”

At the start of the visit, the delegation was welcomed to the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. After a short introduction to the structure and organisation of the Ministry, the Moroccan guests were able to find out more about the role of forensic reports in criminal proceedings and the relevant legal foundations in this respect. The relationship between the justice system and legal and forensic medicine was also discussed, with a particular focus on the importance of the independence of expertw.

At the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the Charité Berlin, the deputy head of the institute, Lars Oesterhelweg, presented the various tasks involved in legal and forensic medicine and gave the participants an insight into the current state of legal and forensic medicine in Germany. Afterwards, the participants visited the dissection room, the department of toxicological tests and the outpatients’ clinic for protection against violence at the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine,

Other ports of call on the study visit included the Public Prosecutor's Office in Berlin and the LKA (state office of criminal investigation) in Berlin. Thanks to many years of experience in prosecuting homicides, Senior Public Prosecutor Ralph Knispel was able to address many issues concerning the cooperation between public prosecutor’s offices, police criminal investigation departments and legal and forensic medicine. There were some lively discussions on the various challenges facing Germany and Morocco in this area. Detective Chief Inspector Guido Sündermann explained the practicalities of this kind of cooperation using an example case. He explained in which cases a forensic scientist is called to the scene of the crime in Germany and to what extent the investigations of police and forensic medicine are kept separate from one another.

The study visit by the Moroccan delegation took place as part of the “Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco in the field of legal and forensic medicine, with particular consideration paid to the concerns of the Moroccan justice system” project, which the IRZ is coordinating between 2017 and 2019 as part of the project financed by the German Foreign Office (Transformation Partnerships with North Africa/the Middle East). The next study visit on this subject will take place in June 2019.

Seminar on the “Humane treatment of prisoners in Moroccan prisons” held in Marrakesh

During the seminar
During the seminar

On 19 and 20 February 2019, the IRZ ,together with the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR), organised a third seminar on the “Humane treatment of prisoners in Moroccan prisons” in Marrakesh, Morocco. The event was held as part of the “Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco on Prison Management” project, which is being supported by the German Foreign Office and coordinated by the IRZ between 2017 and 2019.

Two employees of the Berlin prison system provided the IRZ with expert support in the organisation of the seminar:

  • Stefan Tydecks, a psychologist in the admissions department at the Moabit penal institution, and
  • Michael Weise, Head of General Law Enforcement at the Tegel penal institution.

Reolonane Koutane from the DGAPR opened the event by praising the close historical ties between Morocco and Germany, which would be made even stronger by the seminar.

As a result of a reform process, Morocco has gradually abolished the old penal system, starting with the constitution of 1962. Since then, the focus has no longer been exclusively on imprisonment for the protection of society, but on safeguarding the humane treatment of prisoners and their reintegration. The DGAPR is aiming to achieve a new image for penal institutions, with the emphasis on their educational work.

The lectures given at the seminar by the German and Moroccan experts shed light on the legislative history of safeguarding human rights in prisons. In the Moroccan law on the penal system and in the new 2011 constitution, the safeguarding of prisoners’ basic rights is guaranteed. Several institutions set up specifically for this purpose review the respect of human rights in prisons. One of the most important of these is the National Human Rights Council of Morocco, which was reformed in 2018.

As a result of the efforts made by the DGAPR to ensure the continuous improvement of respect for prisoners’ human rights, food supplies have been privatised and the provision of services has also been improved considerably. In addition, an electronic complaints management system has been set up on a national level.

In the German penal system, the treatment mission for prisons is of critical importance. The main objective of the penal system in Germany is reintegration into society. With the aim of releasing prisoners to live a crime-free life, the German experts presented in their lectures measures for relaxing imprisonment conditions, in which certain requirements or safety measures can be determined. The prisoners have no legal claim to these privileges. However, with a positive prognosis, even high-risk offenders can benefit from such privileges in Germany. Terrorists, on the other hand, are excluded from these programs in the German penal system. In Morocco, a strategy for reconciliation with themselves and with religious sources and society is applied for the reintegration of terrorists.

When it comes to accommodating extremist prisoners, attention must be paid to their humane treatment as well as to security concerns. In this respect, the German experts expressed the need for appropriate training measures for prison staff in dealing with this group of prisoners.

During the seminar discussions, the participants pointed out similar experiences in Moroccan and German prisons and were very interested in working out shared solutions to problems. In particular when it comes to release on parole, there are similar requirements for prisoners in both systems. There were also some lively discussions on the design of an open prison. The focus here was on long sentences and the treatment of high-risk offenders.