Project Update 15th of July 2015

ECOPRISOn 22 & 23 June the second project team (Portugal, Romania, Turkey, EuroPris) meeting took place in Ankara, Turkey. In the first months the project worked on the development of a comparative analysis for prison work models. This tool will give an overview of how prison work is organized in different countries and provides for some cases of success and failure. We would like to invite European Prison Administrations to support this tool (see example below) with your experiences by completing this template. Also, it would be helpful if you can provide EuroPris with contact details of an expert that can be approached for questions about prison work in your country.

Another part of the meeting was a visit to the prison work workshops of the Sincan open prison, that is part of a prison complex built in 2000 and comprising of 8 prisons (including female, juvenile, high security) with 6500 detainees. 640 prisoners are In the open prison and almost all of them are working in the production of furniture, textiles, agricultural products and a kitchen that has to cater for 9000 persons daily.

The ECOPRIS project holds in its core objectives to prepare prison staff to create and manage “prison work”; to provide opportunities for inmates’ skills development; and also to increase the generation of own funds to be allocated to the fulfilment of prisons’ mission. Within this scope one of the key outputs focus on challenging the following question:

How is prison work organized in European prison systems?

This is one of the main questions that ECOPRIS project addresses under output 1 – Prison work models critical review. We started in December 2014 by gathering and reviewing EU prison models and programs, which resulted in a prison work comparison framework proposal.

The framework was then pre-tested by core partners; Portuguese, Turkish and Romanian prison services; and the first associated partner Belgian prison service. The pre-test sustained the final prison work framework structure in April 2015.

The next step will be to collect from each country 4 successful prison work models (best practices) and 4 unsuccessful models using the validated framework. The 3 most promising practices will be inserted in the “Training Comparison Framework Catalogue” to be delivered by the end of August.

The prison work comparative framework establishes a comparison in terms of five major dimensions: (1) Concepts, scope and modalities; (2) Management & structure; (3) Market; (4) Marketing & communication and (5) Labour Reintegration, divided into different components and indicators as table 1 shows.

Dimensions Sub-dimensions Indicators
Concepts, scope & modalities Prison work concept What, whom, where, how and what for
Legal enforceability Enforceability of prison work; Possibility of volunteering
Specific legal provisions Specific laws and regulations that regulate prison wok
Prison work or special categories of inmates Existing law or rules for special categories like minors, woman, inmates with disabilities
Competent authority
Management & structure Prison work structure


Existence of prison work promotion team; Identification of main business sectors; Existing sustainable business concepts; Existing internal training projects; Setting up production facilities; Identification of potential business partners; communication with chambers of commerce; connection of prison work with VET; Existing training for promotion team
Organization of prison work Place of workshops (inside/outside); security restrictions
Occupational health and safety measures Training in health and safety issues; specific regulations
Type of management Public, private or mixed
Governing body
Selection of workers Selection process; responsible body for selection
Criteria for selection
Limits on access to workplace opportunities
Type of employment relationship
Employment rate
Working hours Legal length of prison work; rights to holidays and days off
Average number of hours worked per week
Basis for pay Enforceability of payment; calculation process; application of bonuses
Payment process Process of pay availability for the inmates; Distribution of income; deductions for other costs
Minimum and average salary
Social and other benefits Existing social, health, judicial or other benefits for prison workers
Market Supply/demand orientation
Type of production
Means of production Responsible body for providing materials and equipment
Quality of the product Quality standards applied
Type of clients Pubic, private or mixed
Type of partnerships Existing partnerships and type of agreement
Production capacity Maximum output; annual income from prison work
Marketing & Communication Customer relations Suitability of products to customer needs
Promotion techniques
Market research Existing market research strategies or practices
Social responsibility strategy
External partnerships Partnerships with external contractors
Commercialization of prison products Legislation; Management process; Responsible person/body
Labour Reintegration Prior training Prior assessment of workers; prior training to prison work; on-the-job training
Supervision of work On-going monitoring of prison workers’ development; existing parameters to assess the competence levels of inmates pre- and post-employment in prison workshops
Inmate’s transition to labour market Services in place that prepare inmates’ transition to labour market
Average of ex-inmates employed after release
Job market Existing job markets for inmates’ transition to labour market
Communication with business Strategies or plans for communication with business within the prison system

Some key preliminary findings

  • All prison services consider three types of working activities: (1) household work; (2) workshops for own production; and (3) workshops for external production.
  • However, in 2 countries prison work is only possible inside, while in other countries prison work is possible inside and outside prison facilities.
  • Differences exist concerning volunteering: while Romania foresees this as a type of prison work, most countries does not regard it as a prison working activity, although Portugal and Turkey allow for it to happen.
  • In all countries, prison work is voluntary and payment is obligatory. Nonetheless, differences exist in how the payment is calculated and how it is made available for inmates – the complexity requires a more detailed analysis.
  • Regarding type of management, three countries allow for a public and a mixed management, while only admit public. The same happens with clients.
  • Figure 1 in right shows that the prison work rate varies between 20 to 45% of the prison population. Although in Belgium case the figure includes inmates engaged in Vocational Educational Training (VET) since it is equivalent to labour.
  • Regarding the “market” dimension of prison work, countries present parity points in what concerns type of production: all refer agriculture, metal works and other labour-intensive productions as main business sectors. Furthermore, all countries indicate that a partnership between prisons and clients are not applied and in most cases is no official quality standard prison work products.
  • The findings suggest points of difference at the “marketing and communication” level, where, for example, Belgium is the only country that presents a commercial staff with sales-oriented training that is dedicated to the promotion of prison work products and for customer relations. On the other hand, all countries refer the inexistence of market research or market prospecting.
  • Lastly, in what concerns “Labour Reintegration”, all prison services lack the information about the average number of inmates who get employed after release. Moreover, Portugal and Belgium provide VET training for detainees.

If you want to participate in this prison work comparative study, please complete our online survey about prison work models and practices in your country.