Racism in Prison Programme, October 2001-March 2002

”Racism in Prison” Programme, October 2001-March 2002

A number of studies have shown that prison inmates are treated differently, depending on their race, religious convictions, and so forth. Acts of brutal aggression, humiliations, unjustified persecution, racist remarks, arbitrary sanctions are the daily lot of some of the inmates.

Objectives of the project:

The families of inmates, organizations such as the International Prison Monitoring Centre, and NGOs whose members do voluntary work in prisons have often denounced these forms of discrimination and have incessantly struggled to bring these issues to the attention of governments. On the whole, however, such information has not been adequately communicated and/or is difficult to communicate to the public at large. For that reason it was vitally important for the EFUS:

– to make sure that public authorities acknowledge the problem and recognize that it does not concern merely one prison but many prisons throughout Europe. The problem will be easier to acknowledge if it is “internationalized,” “Europeanized”. Transparency is a sign of social progress, greater control and serenity; this is why speaking out, loud and clear, about what is happening in prisons can help prevent and combat discrimination;

– to authorize effective external observation that can challenge the lack of transparency of the prison system;

– to affirm and validate the work of prison guards and provide them with better training;

–  to make sure that public vigilance can be properly exercised both locally and nationally, given the fact that this is a “public service” even when it is managed by private concerns;

–  to make sure that the inmate’s word has some weight with respect to the word of a guard or a prison administrator (recourse against arbitrary sanctions, etc.);

– to ensure that inmates are not left in financial distress, because indifference and precarious conditions produce isolation and jeopardize chances of reintegration, because lack of money can be an important source of pressure among inmates, and can lead to bullying and various forms of trafficking, including prostitution.


-Bibliographic and documentary research (updating of an inventory, inventory of testimonies, etc.);

-Mobilisation of the partnership and sharing of respective knowledge on the topic during the conferences;

-Research for new partners (Scandinavian countries and prison, among others);

-Carrying out audits (interviews and studies in several countries) to broaden the thinking and share better knowledge of what is happening in European prisons;

-Inventory and analysis of ‘good practices’ and interesting (or innovative) experiments;

-Use of new communication and information technologies (in particular through the creation of an interactive Internet website);

-Recommendations to be implemented, inspired by the reported ‘good practices’: prison management, training of prison personnel, setting up ‘citizen’ vigilance, fighting against extreme precariousness and destitution in prison.

 -Association Nationale des Visiteurs de Prison, Paris

-Union d’avocats, Paris

-GRETA Ouest Etang de Berre-Alpilles, Aix-en-Provence

-Centre pour l’égalité des chances et la lutte contre le racisme, Brussels

-Fondation pour l’assistance morale aux détenus, Brussels

-NACRO,(National Association for Care and Resettlement of  Offenders),London


-Human Rights Centre, Copenhague


– Daniel ATCHEBRO, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (Geneva), member of the Secretariat of the World Conference against Racism

– Louk HULSMAN, jurist and criminologist, Honorary Professor at the Erasmusmeverselel University, Rotterdam, former member of the National committee responsible for monitoring prisons in Holland.

In the framework of this programme, the first meetings were organised at the end of 2001:

* October–mid-December 2001:        

-Documentary and bibliographic research -Preparation of the first partners’ meeting

* 17, 18 December 2001:                   

 1st seminar in Paris, France: exchanges of experiences and documentation


The phenomenon was found to be so wide-ranging that the project partners decided to concentrate essentially on discriminatory practices in the areas of health and education, which findings showed to be very significant in European prisons: access to education and preparation for release, access to libraries, on the one hand, and access to health care on the other.

Special attention was given to discrimination against women.