Tunisian delegation visits Berlin to discuss classification and transition management in the prison system

The Tunisian delegation on a visit to the JVA Heidering prison
The Tunisian delegation on a visit to the JVA Heidering prison

From 10 to 15 September 2018, the IRZ welcomed a delegation of high-ranking representatives of the Tunisian prison system on a visit to Berlin. The delegation was led by the Director General of the Tunisian prison authorities, Elyes Zalleg, and Ali Guiga representing the Ministry of Justice.

The four-day study visit on the “classification of prisoners” and “transition management and follow-up care in prisons” began with a visit to the Senate in Berlin, followed by expert discussions with the Head of Department III – Law Enforcement, Susanne Gerlach. This was followed by talks with Social Services, during which the structure and areas of responsibility of probationary services were presented. Over the next three days, the Tunisian guests visited detention facilities and took part in expert discussions with their directors and other members of staff. This included psychologists, social workers, enforcement officers and security personnel, who explained their areas of responsibility.

The main topics discussed during the talks were the classification of prisoners and social reintegration and follow-up care. The Tunisian delegation also learned about further training opportunities for prisoners and about the involvement of external parties in the social reintegration process.

All four days of the working visit featured lively discussions between the Tunisian guests and their hosts. Since the Tunisian prison system is currently undergoing a period of upheaval, many questions came up with regard to potential for reform and the implementation of new structures and processes. The German experts provided some important ideas and momentum for the continuing reforms.

The study visit was organised as part of the project running from 2017 to 2019 to support judicial reform in Tunisia, which is being supported by the German Foreign Office.

Study visit on prison system reform for a delegation from Tunisia

The Tunisian delegation at the Ministry of Justice for North Rhine-Westphalia
The Tunisian delegation at the Ministry of Justice for North Rhine-Westphalia

During the period from 26 August to 1 September 2018, a delegation of representatives from the prison authority and the prison service in Tunisia visited the Ministry of Justice and various penal institutions in the North-Rhine Westphalia region of Germany.

The event was organised in partnership with the “General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration” in Tunisia and under the leadership of the French organisation “Justice Coopération Internationale” (JCI) and was supported by the European Union within the framework of the twinning project “Renforcement des institutions de l‘administration pénitentiaire” on prison system reform in Tunisia. The project began in October 2015 and will run until September 2018.

The main objectives of the project are:

  • Development of the institutional capacities of the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration
  • Support for the National University of Prison Administration and Reintegration in the development of a new training programme 
  • Development of a national concept for the gradual introduction of a probation system in Tunisia.

At the start of their visit, the Tunisian guests were welcomed to the Ministry of Justice for the North Rhine-Westphalia region in Düsseldorf by assistant state secretary Jakob Klaas. Here, the participants were given an introduction to the prison system in North Rhine-Westphalia. They were informed about the structure and organisation of the prison system and were given an overview of the following topics:

  • suspended sentencing, 
  • the roles and tasks of probation officers, 
  • admitting and dealing with terrorist prisoners and 
  • cooperation with the media and publicity work.

Over the following days, the delegation visited various penal institutions, including the JVA Geldern, the young offenders’ institution in Heinsberg, the Willich II women's prison and the Moers-Kapellen open prison. The following topics were discussed at these institutions:

  • the process and requirements of sentence planning for prisoners,
  • prison staff (figures, career paths, human resources),
  • opportunities for vocational training and occupational therapy for prisoners,
  • the differences between open and closed prisons and
  • specific features of the various institutions.

The Tunisian guests were also able to see for themselves the various training facilities, sports grounds, libraries and prison cells.

The topics discussed during the study visit were met with a great deal of interest by the participants. They took an active part in discussions and made the most of the opportunity to ask plenty of questions.
In Tunisia, the reintegration of prisoners is a subject that is increasingly taking centre stage. There is therefore a continued need for exchanging expertise in this field.

Funded by the European Union

Regional conference in Tunis on the de-radicalisation of prisoners within the rehabilitation plan

Regional conference in Tunis on the de-radicalisation of prisoners
Regional conference in Tunis on the de-radicalisation of prisoners

On 2 and 3 July 2018 the IRZ organised a regional conference on the “De-radicalisation of prisoners within the rehabilitation plan” in cooperation with the Tunisian prison authority. The event was carried out within the ongoing project from 2017 to 2019 for the promotion of the justice reform in Tunisia funded by the German Foreign Office.

High-ranking representatives of the prison authorities of Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria participated in the event which was opened by the Director General of the Tunisian Prison Authority Illyes Zalleg.

Two German experts supported the IRZ in organising this conference:
  • Kai Abraham is a staff member of the Berlin Senate Administration for Justice, Consumer Protection and Non-Discrimination, which supervises the prisons.
  • Feride Aktaş is a project coordinator at the Violence Prevention Network e.V. responsible for the activities in the fields of prevention of religious and political extremism and de-radicalisation of violent criminals motivated by extremism.

In their introductory lectures the experts of the participating countries explained the legal basis and spoke about their practical experience in dealing with radicalised prisoners. Another topic were the measures being taken in rehabilitation and transition management. In the final thematic block specific support measures for the de-radicalisation of prisoners were explained.

All participants showed great interest as was evident by the lively discussions. There was particular interest in specific examples from Germany of support measures for radicalised prisoners. Another focus of the debate was how to determine the degree of risk of the inmates. Due to existing tendencies towards radicalisation in prisons the participants pointed out the topicality of this issue and that there was great pressure to act.

Special attention was also given to the support of prisoners in preparation of and after their release from prison. It was emphasized that is was necessary to closely monitor and support radicalised former prisoners. Organisations and experts from civil society can be involved in carrying out these support measures. The participation of family members and other key persons is also of major importance. Moreover, the staff need to be trained in dealing with radicalised inmates during their vocational training.

The regional conference enabled an exchange about the forms of participation of civil society organisations in implementing de-radicalisation measures and introduced specific concepts when dealing with radicalised prisoners.

All participants considered the conference as an important exchange of their experience with radicalised prisoners. The IRZ will continue to support the reform projects in the Tunisian prison system with regard to the resocialisation of prisoners and the preparation for their release from prison.