New programmes for dependent prisoners introduced

02-02-2024 14:05

‘The correctional system in Bulgaria has already made the first steps in the process of modernisation not only of the living conditions in prisons, but also in the concept of treatment of prisoners.’ With these words, Deputy Minister of Justice Georgi Nikolov addressed 115 employees of the Directorate General for Execution of Punishments (DGEP), to whom he presented certificates for participation in training on the application of newly developed programs for prisoners.

Social workers and psychologists received five trainings under the Project of Life Programme and the Programme for Dependent Prisoners. DGEP will start testing and implementing them in all prisons and eventually in the new transitional wards (half way houses). Offender rehabilitation programmes and the professional role of the mentor are part of a new conceptual framework for the reintegration of detainees. They complement the existing specialised programmes implemented in Bulgarian prisons.

The focus is on working with vulnerable prisoners who are most often either dependent or young offenders and Roma. It is they who most need comprehensive and continuous support in prison, according to their individual needs, according to the authors of the pilot programmes.

The new tools for social reintegration are based on a specially prepared ‘Analysis and assessment of the needs of prisoners’. Its conclusions point to the need to develop specialised intervention programmes to combat addictions, including gambling addiction and those targeting young offenders and Roma. Analysis has also shown that dependent behaviour is a particular challenge in the process of prisoner re-socialisation and is a factor in prison re-entry.

The programmes are the result of the joint work of experts from the DGEP, the Norwegian Correctional Service and Penal Reform International. Their preparation is in the framework of the project ‘Increasing staff capacity, building a pilot prison linked to a training centre and improving the rehabilitation of prisoners’, which DGEP is implemented by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2014 — 2021.