Education behind Foreign Bars Foundation
The Education behind Foreign Bars Foundation (Educatie achter buitenlandse tralies) (Eabt) is a volunteer organisation that was founded in 2004. Since that year, the Foundation has successfully organised remote education in Dutch for Dutch detainees in prisons abroad and has coordinated this education from the Netherlands.
Education is one of the major factors that prevent or reduce the chance of recidivism. To this end, the Eabt Foundation closely collaborates with the Foreign Liaison Office of the Dutch Probation Service and the Dutch embassies and consulates abroad. There is also much contact with various educational institutes and publishing companies of educational methods and tools.
All across the world, prison administrations and custodial authorities obtain approval for and grant cooperation to admitting educational material from the Eabt Foundation for the benefit of Dutch detainees. The Foundation is frequently complimented by authorities from the Netherlands and abroad on this form of care for Dutch detainees.
In the past few years, an average annual number of 200 Dutch detainees in foreign prisons could start with education that is tailored to their background and capabilities.
Outside the Netherlands, there are approximately 2,600 Dutchmen in prisons in over 90 countries across the world, sometimes for ‘only’ a few weeks or months, but often for many years, even several decades. All these people will return to the Netherlands after they have completed their sentence and will have to try to resume the thread of their life. Sometimes they have to start their life all over again.
During the detainees’ time in foreign detention, the Foreign Liaison Office of the Dutch Probation Service, in consultation with the Dutch embassy in the respective country, gives guidance to these people and helps them prepare for their return to Dutch society.
According to the United Nations and the Council of Europe, people in prison have a right to education, just like free citizens have. Here we mean suitable education, education that is in line with the (educational) background, capabilities, ambitions and perspective of these detainees. This means that education should be offered in the detainee’s language, the language of the detainee’s home country.
In practice, this means education in the foreign detainee’s native language.
The prison authorities are responsible for ensuring that this right is respected. In reality, however, this right is hardly respected anywhere. As a result, the preparation for a return to society after a detainee has served his time is only limited. But bear in mind that it is almost impossible to arrange for suitable education for foreign detainees in their own language, with sometimes more than 40 nationalities in a single prison.
Intensive collaboration between authorities and organisations in all (European) countries is required to change this situation. The detainee’s home country should offer education to compatriots detained in another country. Unfortunately, this collaboration is starting to take place only sparsely and with difficulty.
With respect to Dutch detainees in foreign prisons, the Eabt Foundation, with the support of and in collaboration with the Dutch Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, took the initiative 15 years ago and arranges and gives guidance with respect to remote education in Dutch. Of course, this only pertains to those detainees who are interested and motivated to work in this way during their detention abroad on improving their future and their possibilities (better possibilities than those before their arrest and detention) to participate in Dutch society.
The Eabt method is special in the sense that the form and content of the courses and guidance are fully adjusted to the fact that the students are in a prison where all kinds of restrictions apply. Rules about what detainees may receive and what not, may differ per country, per prison or per prison department.
Consequently, it has to be established per situation if course material in hard cover, in ring binders, on audio or on video carriers (CDs or DVDs) are permitted, or whether course materials such as (colour) pencils, water colour, compasses, a calculator et cetera are prohibited or not. Every course package sent by the Eabt Foundation to a Dutch detainee abroad is prepared per specific situation. Since most detainees hardly have any money at their disposal, international reply envelopes are included so that the detainee can send the homework for correction and assessment without having to pay any stamps.
The homework assistance, too, is adjusted to the detainee’s circumstances abroad, for in most cases, assistance is not available at the location. Not only is homework corrected, but study advice is also provided, as well as moral support to encourage the detainee to keep going under the difficult circumstances.
It is also special that the Eabt Foundation does not function independently but closely collaborates with various educational institutions in the Netherlands, with the Foreign Liaison Office of the Dutch Probation Service, and with the Dutch embassies all over the world. Additionally, prison administrations and custodial authorities across the world give approval for and cooperate to delivering study material at the prison and to sending and receiving homework.