Network A Facilitating access and return to the labour market for those who have difficulty in being integrated or reintegrated into a labour market which must be open to everyone.
Project name Black Sheep. Condemned to Nature Protection
Project number A0546

Project description

The Development Partnership's objective is to work out a model for enhancing ex-convicts' job finding opportunities and changing community attitude towards their reintegration and employment. The Partnership was established by United Nations Development Programme with the involvement of penitentiary institutions and environmental/local development organisations from the Lower Silesia Region.

The Project is based on a survey of situation faced by ex-convicts upon their release from penitentiaries, which is very difficult due to a low education status, lack of previous employment history or obsolescence of skills during the incarceration period. Only 10-15% of them manage to get a permanent job, while the remainder, especially those unassisted by their relatives, are in real danger of embarking again on the path of crime.

Considering the apparent inefficiency of the post-penitentiary assistance system focused on occupational reintegration of ex-convicts, the Partnership has developed a Project that will enable convicts to integrate occupationally and adjust themselves to the requirements of the labour market while serving the sentence. Importantly, the Project was designed to bring substantial benefits to the region of the penitentiary and to the local community.

The pilot project will be delivered in the Valley of Barcza River, a predominantly rural region with highly fragmented farms. This contributes to the preservation environmental assets of the region and makes it suitable for delivery of agri-environmental programmes, while supporting biodiversity-focused economy encouraged by the European Union. Project beneficiaries are 310 convicts, 50 Penitentiary Service officers and 40 farmers.

Penitentiary Service officers will be the first to receive training, as it will be their responsibility to coordinate training series delivered under subsequent stages of the Project. Most course leaders, theory lecturers and hands-on job teachers will be recruited from this group. All of them will graduate from a training course in pedagogy to improve teaching skills, as well as from training courses in integration and reintegration of the convicts with the open labour market. This will prepare them for performance of educational duties, in addition to penitentiary/security ones,
and provide them with new tools to support rehabilitation of prisoners.

Training sessions are intended to improve vocational skills of the convicts, familiarize them with labour market mechanisms and provide them will skills and attitudes necessary to find and keep a job. Certificates attesting to completion of training courses will be awarded to the beneficiaries along with letters of reference confirming experience from placements.

Training and placements include the following modules: agri-environmental, food processing, handicraft, construction and environment-friendly machining techniques. The programme and agenda of training sessions have been designed so that the beneficiaries are able to test their knowledge in practice. The cascade of training modules will help to avoid overlapping and allow beneficiaries of higher intellectual potential to acquire skills in two or more trades (e.g. the construction module will include training in the following trades: concreter/steel fixer, bricklayer/ plasterer and finish technology specialist). Moreover, the Project will enable convicts to attend a block of training events in self-employment. Those willing to start their own businesses will have an opportunity to use the services of Legal/Financial Advice Centre.

The Development Partnership is planning to involve the families of detained persons. In an effort to improve financial situation of family members, convicts will be paid internship stipends. Their family members will be invited to events promoting the idea of the Project and presenting products made thereunder. This will help to strengthen family ties, while learning about the products of convicts' work is likely to bring about a change in family members' attitude to the convicts, make them believe in their commitment and strengthen their motivation to find a remunerated job and change the way of life.

Farmers participating in the Project will have Agricultural Education Centre at their disposal. The Centre will help them to develop outlet markets for organic farming products and provide access to information, technical literature and advice. In addition, farmers will be given training in running a farm meeting eligibility criteria of agri-environmental programmes. By working with commitment for the benefit of local community (e.g. joinery works in public buildings), convicts will see a change in community attitude towards them, while the idea of rehabilitation by work will be promoted.

As a result of the Project a system of permanent cooperation between penitentiary and local farmers will be established along with training courses intended to improve convicts' vocational skills and support their occupational reintegration. This will serve as the basis for development of a comprehensive vocational/enterprise training model assisting the convicts in entering the open labour market, while presenting a synthesis of Development Partnership's achievements readily available for replication in other regions and local communities.

Dissemination and promotional campaign is invariably a key component of Partnership's activities. Promoting the idea behind the Project and presenting the methodology and outcomes is expected to contribute to an increase in public consent for convicts' work and, indirectly, to their occupational reintegration upon release from penitentiary institutions.