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

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.

Introduction to toxicology seminar in Casablanca

Participants in the seminar with the two experts Maximilian Methling and André Niebel (seated, 1st and 2nd from left)
Participants in the seminar with the two experts Maximilian Methling and André Niebel (seated, 1st and 2nd from left)

On 7 and 8 November 2018, the IRZ, together with the Moroccan Public Prosecutor’s Office in Agadir, organised a seminar on “An introduction to toxicology”. This 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 Federal Foreign Office (Transformation Partnerships with North Africa/the Middle East).

The objective was to give the attending public prosecutors and forensic scientists an overview of the possibilities for detecting various toxic substances. The speakers at the seminar were Maximilian Methling and André Niebel, both of whom work as researchers in Forensic Toxicology at the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the Charité Berlin.

Following an introduction to the legal framework and terms of forensic toxicology, the two German experts talked about the systems used for toxicological examinations. They explained how urine, blood, hair and organs can be used to make statements about the possible cause of death by various substances. With the help of examples from a large number of selected death cases, the participants were able to form a clear picture of the significance of toxicological examinations in forensic medicine.

In Morocco, there are currently only three laboratories – two in Rabat and one in Casablanca – where samples can be examined. This makes the work of forensic scientists much harder, since the samples can deteriorate during transport and long processing times. This made it all the more important to demonstrate during the seminar how samples are taken at the scene and which substances are no longer detectable in the blood after a short amount of time. Hair analysis takes on particular significance in this respect. Maximilian Methling and André Niebel therefore also went into detail on the advantages and disadvantages of hair analysis.

The participants showed a great deal of interest and made the most of the discussions to ask plenty of questions. They were made aware of the fact that effective legal and forensic medicine requires local laboratories to carry out toxicological tests.
Two further seminars are due to take place on this subject in Morocco in 2019.

Seminar on “Professional, vocational and artistic training for prisoners” in Rabat

Participants and speakers at the seminar
Participants and speakers at the seminar

On 11 and 12 October 2018, the IRZ, in cooperation with the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR), organised its second seminar on “Professional, vocational and artistic training for prisoners” in Morocco’s capital city, Rabat. The event was held as part of a project supported by the German Federal Foreign Office on “Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco on Prison Management”. The IRZ is coordinating this project between 2017 and 2019. The objective of this component is to improve social and psychological care for prisoners, particularly with regard to the acute conflict resolution skills of those working in law enforcement.

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

  • Katja Adolph, Head of Employment and Qualification at the Berlin young offenders’ institution, and
  • Mirjam Drechsel, Head of Employment and Qualification at the women’s penal institution in Berlin.

As part of the welcoming ceremony, the DGAPR praised the successful cooperation with the IRZ and remarked on a clear improvement in the situation for prisoners. The key objective of the DGAPR’s work is to reduce the relapse rate and ensure the successful reintegration of prisoners.

Several lectures by German and Moroccan speakers addressed the similarities and differences between the training of prisoners in both countries. During the subsequent discussions, a more in-depth and lively exchange took place between the participants.

Amongst the factors identified in Moroccan prisoners as having a high level of influence on the success rate of reintegration, the professional training of prisoners has become a priority. Using established criteria, prisoners are approved for professional training by a selection committee. The training measures available to prisoners in Moroccan prisons include school education, literacy, professional and vocational training and higher education. The DGAPR works with a wide variety of external parties to provide this training.

Whilst prisoners in Morocco can train to become trainers for other prisoners, this is not possible in Germany, since penal institutions are subject to the statutory provisions of the law governing the prison system on providing training for prisoners. The responsibility for the monitoring and organisation of prison management is taken over by social services in Germany. Social workers play a central role here. Following on from the initial case history interview with a social worker, a process of establishing skills is carried out by independent organisations and the results are also included in the enforcement plan. The objective is to provide employment or training corresponding to the needs or skills of the prisoners. German prisons cooperate with a large number of external parties for the professional training of prisoners, including the German Federal Employment Agency, the Chambers of Industry and Commerce, the Chamber of Crafts, various trade guilds and a large number of independent organisations.