The challenges which were deliberated on concerned:
• reducing violence against prison employees;
• addressing the right to strike of justice employees; and
• dealing with impacts of refugee immigration on penitentiary systems.
A growing concern: Violence against prison employees
Touria Lebbad, CESI policy advisor for justice policy, delivered a keynote presentation on the increasing incidence of violence against prison employees. She reported that in some cases rioting in prisons has increased by more than 70% during the last three years and that in some places serious attacks on prison employees have recently increased by almost 50%.
She noted that this development can be attributed to at least two factors: First, statistics show that overcrowding and staff shortage in prisons is still a major problem in many EU Member States. As the staff-to-prisoner ratio remains too low, prison staff members can hardly keep prisons a calm place. Second, the retirement age for justice employees has been continuously raised in many EU Member States, and older workers have more so than younger ones difficulties in fighting off violent younger offenders. Raising awareness of increasing violence against prison employees will remain a key priority of the Trade council.
Still an issue: The right to strike of justice employees
Mark Freeman, a justice expert, presented a case study of the right to strike of justice employees in the UK. The case study was discussed by the Trade council members against the backdrop of the situation of the right to strike of justice employees in the different EU Member States. It emerged that there are still problems with it in several Member States. The Trade council will continue to work on this topic.
An emerging challenge: Impacts of refugee immigration on penitentiary systems
Franz-Josef Schäfer, Vice-president of the Trade council and affiliate of CESI’s member organisation dbb (the German civil service federation), introduced a debate on the impacts of increasing refugee immigration on penitentiary systems. This related in particular to an increasing level of foreigners in prisons, which becomes more elevated as the share of foreigners in a country increases too. Trade council members noted that prison administrations need to better adapt, equip and train their staff members especially in terms of necessary linguistic and cultural skills. Foreigners in prisons give rise to specific requirements for prison staff members and the prison managers, it was concluded.