Within the B-Competent project, European Centre and Albanian Ombudsman organized two Focus Groups , respectively on 21st and 29th of April 2020 via Zoom Platform. The discussion was focused on outlining the existing weak spots and training gaps, with members from several prisons, such as: Prison directors, Heads of the Directories of Police of some regions, educational staff, social assistants and social workers, chiefs of security in some different prisons, psychologists, etc. During the focus groups, the representative of the Centre and People’s Advocate aimed to address 2 issues interlinked with each other, in order to have feedback from all the above-mentioned target groups on the current situation of prison staff in Albania and the challenges that they face in their daily work. The two main issues addressed were:
(a) The training gaps of prison staff and practical obstacles to human rights protection in the correctional facilities, with special regard to foreign inmates’ rights.
(b) Discussions with prison authorities on the overcrowded prisons, general education of prison staff, welfare and wages, the recruitment criteria for new prison staff, courses, and the final program.
The participants at focus groups established the floor to foster dialogue and exchange their experiences and challenges. The main issues were related to the lack of civilian staff and the lack of interpreters. The lack of the latter ones forces prison staff to find alternative solutions such as, translation from the prison staff or other prisoners that know the language. Another issue is related to the continuous training, which is mainly focused on police or army bodies in the prisons. Civil staff training is not a structured practice. There is a need to organize and deliver more training, especially for civil, forensic, and medical staff. Multicultural training or training focused on ethnic tradition should be kept in mind. A dedicated fund for interpreters is very necessary, in order to come in help to the foreign prisoners.