The Council of Europe issued today a new set of Guidelines aimed at assisting its 47 Member States in improving the recruitment, education, training and professional development of prison and probation staff. The guidelines have been developed as a way to share best practices taking into account the diversity of criteria used so far in different countries.
The document underlines a number of principles that governments should aim to respect, for example, that staffing levels be sufficient, that staff have a professional status and adequate training, and that they carry out their work with high professional ethics.
The guidelines contain specific recommendations with regard to the minimum entry educational levels of staff and the criteria for recruitment, which should be carried out in fair and transparent way, taking into consideration the personal skills and values required for staff working in prison and probation services.
Another aspect that is stressed is that recruitment processes should aim to encourage diversity of staff to deal with the specific needs of diverse suspects and offenders, including suitable linguistic and inter-cultural skills. That is also why vacant posts should be advertised as transparently and widely as possible to allow a broad diversity of candidates to apply.
In addition, the guidelines underline the importance of providing prison and probation staff with adequate education and training in specific fields of knowledge and practice, as well as the need for a transparent system of annual appraisals of performance allowing career and professional development.
Finally, the guidelines highlight that prison and probation services should have a publicly available code of ethics for their staff, and that evaluating respect of this code should be part of the appraisal procedure.
The guidelines, which the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has invited Member States to disseminate among their relevant national authorities, were developed as a follow up to the 22º Council of Europe Conference of Directors of Prison and Probation Services held in Lillestrøm (Norway) in June 2017, which addressed staff selection, training and development.