Prison Achievement Award 2023

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At EuroPris, we want to annually highlight and celebrate developments, overcoming challenges, and initiatives that have been implemented in prisons across Europe. We know from our engagement with prison services that there are many excellent examples of practice and innovation which have been implemented in recent years. For this reason, we would like to award the next European prison by giving it the 'Prison Achievement Award'. This is your chance to share your experience with the correctional arena in the coming years to come. Below you will find the winner and the shortlisted candidates for the prison achievement award 2023.

Winner of the Prison Achievement Award 2023

Congratulations to the Centre Penitenciari Quatre Camins & the Centre Peniteciari Mas d’Enric – Catalonia (Spain) for the development of ‘Immersive Virtual Reality in Intimate Gender Violence Rehabilitation Programs in Prison’.

Virtual reality (VR) allows the user to be immersed in environments in which they can experience situations and social interactions from different perspectives by means of virtual embodiment. In the context of rehabilitation of violent

behaviors, a participant could experience a virtual violent confrontation from different perspectives, including that of the victim and bystanders. This approach and other virtual scenes can be used as a useful tool for the rehabilitation of

intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetrators, through the improvement of their empathic skills or for training in nonviolent responses. This project is about the use of this tool in a prison environment for the rehabilitation of IPV perpetrators with a particular focus on practical aspects based on our experience.

If you like to learn more about this project, please visit their website here. Read more about this project in the article from Frontiers Journal here. Justice Trends also released an article on the use of Virtual Reality in Catalan prisons and its challenges and opportunities, focusing on this project, click here to read the article.

Nicolás Barnes (Forensic Psychologist, Secretariat of Criminal Sanctions, Rehabilitation and Victim Support, Catalonia, Spain)

Shortlisted Candidates

Left to right: Olivia Rope (Penal Reform International)(jury), Torben Adams (UNODC)(jury), Carlos Fernandez Gomez (Spanish General Directorate of Prison Administration), Petra Tankovicova (Slovak General Directorate of the Corps of Prison and Court Guard), Susanne Maedrich (German Federal Ministry of Justice), David Font & Nicolás Barnes (Catalonian Secretariat of Criminal Sanctions, Rehabilitation and Victim Support), Justina Dzienko (EuroPris), Ilina Taneva (Council of Europe).

OCAÑA - 2 PRISON (Spain)

'Without prejudice' is a pioneering project for the treatment of inmates with mental illness. Towards a paradigm shift.

'Without prejudice' is a pioneering project designed and implemented by professionals from the Ocaña prison in 2020. It seeks a paradigm shift in the treatment of mentally ill inmates. It departs from the traditional model of intervention, granting a co-protagonist role in the treatment to surveillance officers and incorporating different external prison agents (NGOs,socio-sanitary entities, universities...). The treatment is carried out in a group format, working each year around a theme that guides the intervention: in 2020-21 it was “the stigma” and in 2021-22 “the signs”. At the end of each year, those contents proven useful for recovery were included in a magazine in order to disseminate, inside and outside prison, the idea that seeing these inmates in a new light is possible. The project has managed to involve a large number of inmates and surveillance officers, reducing conflicts and raising the awareness of extra-penitentiary agents, thus obtaining more external resources for these inmates.

For further information about this project in a presentation format, click here. the project was also mentioned in Without Prejudice Magazine. Mental Health in Prison. “Signs; Do we know how to see them?” (in Spanish) click here.


(Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany)

Calculation of unemployment benefits while still in prison

In autumn 2019, a cooperation agreement was concluded between the Ministry of Justice in Rhineland-Palatinate and the Federal Employment Agency - Regional Directorate Rhineland-Palatinate/Saarland. The cooperation should facilitate the integration of prisoners after prison. The pandemic reached us! An attempt was made to find a solution to make it possible for prisoners to apply for benefits and thus gain a little security in uncertain times. The project "Online application for ALG-I for prisoners during imprisonment" was born. With a lot of commitment, a feasible and secure procedure was sought to enable electronic access to information. Since autumn 2020, prisoners have been able to register online as jobseekers 4 weeks before their release, apply for benefits, write applications and contact the relevant case worker via their

online account. The pilot project at Diez Prison has set a milestone in preparing prisoners for release and implementing the idea of resocialisation, which is now to be implemented throughout Germany.

An article about the work was published in the "FS Forum Prison - Journal for prison and criminal assistance, duty or privilege? Work and social security in prison, No. 4/21" click here to read it. In the article by Mike Lengwenus and Daniela Wüst from the JVA Diez (Rhineland-Palatinate), you can find out how ALG I applications and job seeker registration can be submitted with the help of Elis. Click here to read it forum from the Forum No 4/21 edition.


Implementation of the 'Chance for Re-entry' project in the Prison and Remand Prison Ilava

The 'Chance for Re-entry' project represents a complexity ranging from the change of physical renovation, the subsequent material equipment of the premises of a certain part (sector) of the prison Ilava, through new technologies (digitalization - Webex Board, kiosks + HOLUP app), the approach of specific prison officers/civil employees, up to a very important area i.e. “intellectual property” - know how (especially resocialization and educational training programmes; counseling; curricula; several tools - screening, evaluation, planning; as well as post-penitentiary links within an innovative platform “Mosty”). The setting up, implementation and evaluation of innovative systems of complex support for convicts has an overlap in proposals for legislative changes in general binding legislation and also into the preparation of a system-wide implementation to all prisons. Concerning post-penitentiary care, it is about linking and building cooperation with relevant actors from the public, private and third sectors.

To read more about the 'Chance for Re-entry project', on the project website here. On this page here there is more information about the Ilava prison.


Radio Program 'They Improvise'

In the A Lama Penitentiary Center (Pontevedra) there has been a radio station (broadcasting throughout the prison

and around 5 km close to it) for several years and which has enabled thousands of inmates during all this time to have been able to do, listen and above all feel the magic of the radio. In this station, in March 2022 a new program was born: 'They improvise'. In this program, on Wednesdays, a group of female inmates from different modules accompanied by professionals from the center sit around the study table and from a single word, that they are unaware until the moment the “ on air” light comes on and the microphones open (hence the name of the program), they embark on a journey through their past, present and future lives. With a single word they are able to express emotions, feel, laugh, cry, love, communicate, release... And all this is transferred to another nearly 900 inmates of the prison. (803 men inmates and 57 women ). The result is the collective creation of a liberating energy that brings out the best in each of the attendees and generates very positive bonds in the group.

A letter written by an inmate was sent to a journalist Mara Torres about the radio program. In her interview with the educator in her El Faro program it became known to all its audience (more than 800,000 listeners) that the radio program is carried out by female inmates at the A Lama prison, click here to listen to the program (minute 10). This brings as a consequence that two months later, in El Faro the journalist announces that she is going to carry out her program in the A Lama Penitentiary Center in a few days, click here to listen.

The next 5 candidates are acknowledged for excellent projects that came to the top 10 rankings, but did not qualify to rank in the first 5 shortlisted candidates:

  • Germany - Bildungszentrum Justizvollzug Baden-Wuerttemberg on Suicide prevention in the Baden-Wuerttemberg prison system
  • Ireland - Irish Prison Service on Horses for Hope, Castlerea Equine Centre
  • Finland - Hämeenlinna Smart Prison on Smart Prison
  • Spain - Centro Penitenciario Madrid VII (Estremera) on Integra Community
  • Switzerland - Hindelbank Prison on Reintegration oriented external unit


The developments taking place within prisons are wide-ranging and have resulted in positive and tangible improvements for the prison community.  


We know that there are significant examples of first-class practices among your prisons and services. From improvements of prisoners’ regimes, access and participation in education, cooperation with external services and stakeholders, healthcare, through care and reintegration pathways, to innovative improvements in buildings and infrastructure, digitalisation and physical conditions, to better staff support and wellbeing, to positive changes in culture.


Given that work takes place behind walls and rarely gets the public attention it deserves, we believe an annual award will help to highlight and shine a spotlight on your prisons’ success and achievements. 


The Prison Achievement Award will bring these initiatives into the open, facilitating mutual learning between European prison services and raise awareness of how prisons come up with solutions that will unite our network. 

Jury Members

The jury received applications from 37 countries. The jury member are:

  • Olivia Rope (Penal Reform International)
  • Torben Adams (UNODC)
  • Ilina Taneva (Council of Europe),
  • Peter van der Sande (Formerly Director General: Dutch Custodial Institutions Agency)
  • Adriano Martufi (Leiden / Padua University

Selection Process

All projects deemed eligible will be considered by an independent Jury that will make recommendations in relation to the overall award winner. The Jury consists of 3-5 impartial Jury members. They will not be a current employee of the European prison service.

Presentation of Award

The chairperson of the Jury will present the award at the EuroPris AGM. The practitioner/representative from the awarded prison will be invited to join the EuroPris Annual General Meeting on 5 June 2023 in Berlin, to present their work and receive the Prison Achievement Award. 

Share Your Experience

We invite prison practitioners from the Council of Europe region to apply in 2024, application for 2023 is now closed. The final results for 2023 candidates were revealed and the winner was invited to the AGM on 5 June 2023 in Berlin to the European heads of prison services.


Eligibility Criteria for Nominations 

In order to be deemed eligible for consideration, your nomination should meet all of the following criteria: 

  • European - Prisons from correctional services in the Council of Europe region.  
  • Local - Significant development of a correctional facility at a local level, not a national prison service. 
  • Impactful - Results should show improvement and impact in one or more clearly defined areas.  
  • Sustainable - Results need to be possible to maintain over time, not a (temporary) project which ends with its funding. 
  • Recent - Development must have been implemented in the last 5 years. 


Preferred but not required: 

  • A New Departure - Change is unique, original or highly innovative. 

Winners of Prison Achievement Award 2022

The Prison Achievement Award celebrates annually developments and initiatives that have been implemented across Europe. In 2022 it was the first year the award was introduced. There were 24 applications submitted and the top 5 shortlisted candidates were selected by an independent Jury. The main winner of the Prison Achievement Award 2022 presented at the AGM in Seville was Prison Veenhuizen, for their concept 'Innovation Lab', a unique collaboration between the prison in Veenhuizen and the Hanze University Groningen working on the initiative Family Approach. The other shortlisted candidates are Pfäffikon Prison (Switzerland), Olaine Prison (Latvia), Jirice Prison (Czech Republic), and Castelo Branco Prison (Portugal).


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