FEFI – Finding Education for Female Inmates

Within the framework of the multilateral EU-project “Finding Education for Female Inmates/FEFI” ten partners from eight European countries cooperate on the subject of formal and informal education for adolescent and adult women in prison.
Women in prison are a particularity underrepresented group due to their small number (3 to 7%) of the total prison population in all of the partners countries. The project aims to improve and increase participation in lifelong learning by female prisoners who are an integral component of a vulnerable and disadvantaged group - a socially stigmatized group, as well as prisoners and as women.
As female persons have specific needs the main target is to get to know the conditions about their possibilities in prison towards improving their competences in a country comparison as well as to get to know more about the necessities to overcome resistances towards lifelong learning and to initiate changes and new procedures towards three key aspects: staff qualification, pedagogical support and prison structure.
The project targets on regaining confidence and self-esteem to the female inmates, to give them a voice and to deliver a tool that identifies new procedures for policy and decision makers that ensures improvements that incorporate offenders and the professionals involved in rehabilitation as well as on an organizational level.
Under the coordination of the Center for Continuing Academic Education (ZWW) of the University of Mainz the GRUNDTVIG-project started in November 2013 and will have a two year duration (until the end of 2015). Project partners are prisons, ministries, universities and education centers from Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, France, Italy, Malta and Turkey.
In the first year of the project the area has been explored in the participating countries on the basis of questionnaires, the needs of women in prison could be identified and the practical knowledge on their possibilities in supporting a learning process of prison staff has been captured. To find new procedures the evaluation is being carried out on three levels: the needs of women in prison, the experience of prison staff and the needs of the organization. The jointly evaluated results of the questionnaires are the basis for the next steps that will be taken within the work packages relating to formal and informal education for young and adult women in
The next steps towards the aim of the project are to develop, to provide and to evaluate appropriate educational programs for the target group of female prisoners, the prison staff and the organization.

Overview of Events:

Kick-Off in Mainz December 2013

New EU project launched at the Center for Continuing Academic Education (ZWW)

Project “FEFI” about formal and informal education for female inmates/
Multilateral EU-project with a budget of 400.000 euro

Kick-off for a new EU-project at the Center for Continuing Academic Education (ZWW) of the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz: In the context of the multilateral project “Finding Education for Female Inmates” (FEFI) the project partners from eight European countries agreed on work packages about the formal and informal education for juvenile and adult women in the penal system. This shall be investigated in the participating countries through questionnaires, to receive information about the needs of the inmates and the experiences of the correctional officers. Goal of the project is the development, offering and evaluation of suitable learning opportunities for female Inmates, for staff, as well as on the organizational level.

Managed by the ZWW, the multilateral project funded by the EU, will have a budget of 400.000 euro through the GRUNDTVIG-programme, beginning November 2013 until the end of 2015. The project partners come from institutions from Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Malta, Turkey, Cyprus and from two prisons in Rhineland-Palatinate. Co-operation partners are the Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection as well as the Ministry of Integration, Family, Children, Youth and Women in Rhineland-Palatinate.

First FEFI-work Seminar in Finland

EU-project „FEFI“, about formal and informal education for female inmates,
gathers to held a conference in Finland

Managed by the Center for Continuing Academic Education (ZWW) of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, the second conference of the project “Finding Education for Female Inmates” (FEFI) was held on September 29th and 30th in Finland.
Women represent less than 10% of all Inmates in Europe but their special needs are barely considered.
The partners of the multilateral EU-project study with a Europe-wide survey the educational situation of female inmates. The representatives from eight European countries use the results of the survey to establish new procedures for the education and training of women in prison. Especially the development of forms of cooperation between inmates and prison staff is in the focus of the researchers.
The participants discussed the first results in the prison of Vanaja. 440 detained women and 133 prison officer were questioned. Furthermore the
Finish partner invited to a visit of the biggest women’s prison of the country in Hämeenlinna and presented their newly opened training center.

"Prison Museum", Hämeenlinna, Finland

Visit in "Vanaja Women's Open Prison"

Second FEFI-work seminar in Turkey

Third round of the multilateral EU-project “Finding Education for Female Inmates” (FEFI) on the situation of female inmates, coordinated by the Center for Continuing Academic Education (ZWW) of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz.

Conference in Turkey, January 2015

Managed by the Center for Continuing Academic Education (ZWW) of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, the third conference of the project “Finding Education for Female Inmates” (FEFI) took place on January 29th and 30th 2015 in Izmir, Turkey.
The partners of the multilateral EU-project explore the educational situation of female inmates with a Europe-wide survey. They define and carry out suitable measures for the promotion of education. Moreover the Turkish host invited to visit the largest women's prison in the country in Izmir and presented their newly opened education and employment and childcare services for female inmates.
The participants presented the first European research results in Izmir to representatives of the Turkish Ministry of Justice and the prison. 440 female prisoners and 133 prison officers were surveyed. From the results of the survey, the representatives from eight European countries developed new measures for education and training of female inmates. These ideas were presented and discussed. The concrete implementation has begun and is the focus of the project tasks in the coming months. Special emphasis is on the development of forms of cooperation with inmates and staff.

Visit in İzmir Women Closed Prison

Third FEFI-work seminar in Italy

From 24 to 26 June, the 4th conference of the project "Education for Female Inmates Finding" (FEFI) took place in Trapani, Italy. Representatives of 10 partners from 8 countries (Turkey, Malta, Germany, Finland, Belgium, France, Cyprus and Italy) came together to exchange the experiences in the implementation of the developed measures to promote education of female prisoners and to collect European recommendations. In addition, the Italian hosts invited to visit the woman’s section of the prison in Trapani and presented their action "Flying Women". On 24 September 2015, the results of the ZWW coordinated multilateral Grundtvig project will be presented in an international videoconference.

End-conference in the participating countries, September 2015

Women's prisons should be places of learning with a clear focus on the needs, problems, and relevant educational and qualificational requirements of female inmates. This is one of the core conclusions of the multilateral FEFI – Finding Education for Female Inmates project, in which academic and practice-oriented organizations based in Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Italy, France, Malta, Belgium, and Turkey have been collaborating since November 2013. As part of its GRUNDTVIG program, the European Union contributed a total of EUR 400,000 over the past two years towards financing the FEFI project that was coordinated by the Center for Continuing Academic Education of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The goal was to develop new measures for providing education and qualifications based on the results of a survey of the requirements and needs of female inmates and prison staff. A further objective was to develop recommendations with regard to formal and informal forms of training that would facilitate the successful reintegration of female prison inmates in society.
In all the countries involved, women are an under-represented group in penal facilities due to their low rate of imprisonment, which ranged from just three to seven percent of the total prison populations. The evaluation of the survey of 440 female inmates and 133 prison staff by FEFI partners clearly illustrated that female inmates have very specific needs. Their low numbers make it difficult to form thematic groups, the more so as the duration of prison sentences varies. Many female prisoners have experienced some form of abuse in the past; many also suffer from psychiatric problems or are addicted to drugs or alcohol. They are separated from their children and in some countries have automatically lost custody on imprisonment; many experience low self-esteem due to their lack of education and their failure in their role as mothers. They are mostly unaware of their strengths and weaknesses. All of this makes it more difficult to formulate a generalized or vocational-based training plan for female inmates when compared to male prisoners, as the appropriate educational programs are generally not provided by the institutions or the prison staff. The survey results also showed that there are cultural divergences between the participating northern and southern countries in terms of the provision of personnel and facilities and the duration of prison sentences. The FEFI partners have since used these findings to develop new concepts for the education and training of female inmates.

The educational measures derived from the survey findings were adapted to the relevant situations in the various countries. They essentially focused on a systematic approach to the three aspects of measures designed for inmates, measures designed for the staff, and measures related to the structural conditions of female imprisonment. Most of the measures developed in the countries took the form of programs intended to appeal directly to female inmates, as this was deemed most important. However, during the implementation of these programs it became clear that the other two topics needed to be taken into consideration, too. Especially the programs in Malta and in Germany concentrated on this holistic approach.

The FEFI partners and their efforts place an emphasis on the process of resocialization, which in turn focuses on the female inmates and their needs. Thus prisons need to develop into centers of education and learning, where female inmates are provided with the programs and support they need to acquire the personal, social, and vocational skills they will need on release. In order to improve the chances of reintegration, a jointly coordinated approach is needed in which all prison facility stakeholders – from social services through security personnel to management – participate, including the female inmates themselves. The latter require support in all aspects of life, including health, family, training, finding a place to live, etc. Educational and other assistance measures need to be holistically designed and be open to the input of the inmates. "Only those concepts on reintegration into society that acknowledge that learning is a continuous process and that are created in part by the inmates have any chance at all of long-term success," emphasized Project Manager Iris Thimm-Netenjakob of the Center for Continuing Academic Education at JGU. The center has been involved in several European projects dealing with the subject of education in prison since 2008 and continues to promote professional dialog on this topic at a national and international level.

In order to achieve successful resocialization of former female prison inmates and thus reduce their participation in criminality over the long term in Europe, one of the fundamental recommendations made by the FEFI partners on the conclusion of the project was to propose that it is essential to place the needs of female inmates at the center of their learning process and to organize women's imprisonment so that social reintegration and a continuous process of learning and training become possible. For this purpose, prison staff must also be appropriately sensitized and suitably trained so that they are able to motivate female inmates and support them during their participation in educational, rehabilitation, and work programs.

Through the named measures and proposals, the FEFI project attempts to demonstrate how approaches to teaching and education in prison facilities can be successfully designed and implemented. The FEFI partners consider it essential to create enhanced and effective holistic educational concepts for female prison inmates at both the national and European levels. However, these long-term concepts also need the corresponding financial and personnel investments.