European Prison Officers for the 21st Century

Project design

IPS_Innovative Prison Systems


11/2019 – 10/2022 (36 months)

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Developing a strategic approach to skills development for trained prison officers

Across Europe, there are a variety of challenges associated to the training and education of prison officers. They often lack proper initial and continuous training, and in the EU there are big differences in training policies and practices, which can inhibit the development and mobility of professionals between Member States and hinder the implementation of Framework decisions on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to judgments in criminal matters.

Moreover, recruitment and selection processes are different in every member state; initial training, learning outcomes, qualifications and length of training can be very different between jurisdictions as well.

Thus, PO21 sought to fill these gaps and divergences by identifying existing and emerging skill needs within prison officers; strengthening the exchange of knowledge and practices and adapting vocational education and training to skills needs, while promoting qualification standards in the sector, with a particular emphasis on digital skills.


  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • The Netherlands


  • Erasmus+ KA2 – Cooperation and Innovation for Good Practices | Action type: Sector Skills Alliance for design and delivery of VET


Identify existing and emerging skills needs.

Strengthen the exchange of knowledge and practices.

Promote relevant qualifications and support their recognition.

Promote qualification standards for work-based learning.

Adapt Vocational Education and Training (VET) to skills needs.

Focus on digital skills that are increasingly important to the modern job of prison officers.

Plan for the progressive roll-out of the project at sectoral level.

Project outcomes

Corrections sector skills advisory platform

Advisory Board - a panel of experts, who:

  • Advised the project partners, providing inputs to the workplan;
  • Provided feedback about their views about the work being developed;
  • Supported the dissemination of results and mainstreaming into national and EU policies and practice.

Transnational vocational curricula and resources

Design and development of an EU-based, integrated twofold approach to effectively address and upscale the professional role of the prison officer.

  • Skills needs assessment: Through the development of a research-based framework, it collected and analyse data through a comprehensive screening of the existing literature, by running various DACUM workshops and applying an online survey. Both DACUM and the survey allowed for screening training needs of about 500 prison officers;
  • Training curricula: developed under a bottom up and participative approach towards a sustained and innovative curricula for prison officers.
  • Learning Resources –10 Cases designed under the Critical Incidents Technique approach, developed by prison officers. The partnership also developed a Critical Incidents Technique Application Guide, applicable to any training context.

Policy Recommendations for re-thinking prison officers’ training

The Policy Recommendations paper for re-thinking prison officers’ training resulted from an extensive research process carried out in the scope of the PO21 Project. The forty-three recommendations focus on improving and fostering Prison Officers training and professional mobility throughout Europe, on valuing the Prison Officers profession and personal and professional well-being of these professionals.


European Prison Officer’s training course piloting & finetuning

Four training workshops were implemented on-site with participants from the partner countries’ prison services, assuring the development of the training curricula and learning resources and also the Professional Profile and entry requirements of the Prison Officer for the 21st century.

PO21 Library – Knowledge online repository

An online knowledge repository that gathers different training resources focused on PO training and development. More than 100 resources cover 23 topics, including aging/geriatrics, difficult inmates, dynamic security, human rights, mental health, professional ethics, and women in prison. PO21 Library – Training Resources for European Prison Officers.

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