In 2005 the Algerian government embarked on an ambitious programme to build 81 new prisons and to renovate many of the existing prisons which had remained virtually unchanged since the colonial era. The Ministry of Justice and the General Directorate for Prison Administration and Resettlement (DGAPR) understood from the outset that it would be pointless to renovate the physical buildings without having a parallel renovation and reinvigoration of the administrative structure and the management of the prison system.
Following initial discussions in 2005 and 2006, the Algerian authorities asked ICPS to work with the Algerian Government to bring the administration of their prisons up to international standards. With funding from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office ICPS embarked on a joint project with DGAPR in 2007. Using the Arabic version of the ICPS handbook A Human Rights Approach to Prison Management, ICPS consultants worked with staff of the DGAPR on a series of activities to disseminate to Algerian prison staff an understanding of the international standards relating to the use of prisons; to assess the current state of Algerian prisons and to begin a process of strategic management to bridge the gap between the two positions.
In the first year of the project the key outcomes were:
- Establishment of a joint DGAPR/ICPS Project Team
- Training of key staff of the DGAPR in the Human Rights Approach to Prison Management and Strategic Planning
- Identification of strategic priorities for the DGAPRIntroduction of ICPS Training Modules to the DGAPR
- Agreement from key departments of the Prison Service of England & Wales to assist in the second phase of the project
The second phase of the project, between 2008 and 2010, focussed on enhancing the strategic capacity of the DGAPR. The key outcomes were:
- Providing the DGAPR project team with the theory, principles and tools for strategic planning in order to enhance human rights in prisons
- Assisting the project team to finalise the strategic planning model for the DGAPR and obtaining agreement from the Director General on its substance
- Identification of pilot prisons and providing them with ongoing support through regular visits and training
- Holding several workshops in Algeria and in the United Kingdom on methods of reaching international standards through strategic planning
The third phase of the project concentrated on ensuring that the strategic planning model was embedded within the DGAPR and that the principle of enhancing prison management through a respect for human rights was disseminated throughout the prisons in Algeria. The main outcomes were:
- Roll-out of the strategic planning strategy throughout the DGAPR
- Developing the leadership qualities and change management skills of senior staff
- Ensuring that the organisational structure was fit for purpose
- Strengthening the security strategy and evaluating the benefits of the introduction of categorisation of prisoners
- Providing training opportunities in specific areas of prison management and prisoner programmes in partnership with the Prison Service of England & Wales
Throughout the life of the project there has been continuing contact with the EU Delegation on Algeria in an attempt to ensure that the work being done in the ICPS project is compatible with and complementary to the EU activities in prison reform.
The main project ended in March 2012 with a conference in Algiers to discuss the main outcomes of the project. It was attended by senior staff from the Ministry of Justice and from prisons, as well as by representatives from elsewhere in the region, the EU delegation and the Ambassador of the United Kingdom.
In 2012/13 ICPS consultants will make four visits to Algeria to provide continuing support for development work in the DGAPR and ICPS will also be involved in the EU prison reform initiative.