On 1 April 2022 the Council of Europe initiated the implementation of a 30-month project entitled “Ensuring Sustainable Penitentiary Actions in managing rehabilitation of violent extremist prisoners in Bosnia and Herzegovina (ESPA-VEP)”. It is implemented in close cooperation with the three Ministries of Justice (Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federation of BiH, and Republika Srpska), and their respective partners from the entity and state penitentiary institutions.

The overall objective of the project is to provide continued support to the BiH authorities in their efforts to further build the capacities of the prison system and strengthen practical skills of prison staff with respect to managing violent extremist prisoners (VEPs). This will also ensure sustainability of the actions undertaken towards efficient reintegration of the VEPs back in the community.

The previous Council of Europe projects "Structured sentence management for violent and extremist prisoners" and “Support to penitentiary system towards sustainable rehabilitation of violent extremist prisoners in Bosnia and Herzegovina” laid the groundwork for structured case management of VEPs and inter-agency collaboration. The key actions supported by this proposal will focus on further enhancement of prison staff skills related to improving cooperation and coordination through strengthening work in a multi-agency environment, as well as the establishment of reliable mechanisms for information sharing between prisons and external partners. The project shall be focused on strengthening the institutional capacities for implementation of pre-release programmes, which will significantly contribute to enhancement of the multi-agency co-operation, especially with the community-based organisations when it comes to providing post-penal support for VEPs and their reintegration into the society. Development of the harmonised training curricula for prison personnel managing VEPs across all three administrative jurisdictions (BiH, FBiH, and RS), as well as the protection of well-being of the prison staff working with VEPs through introduction of a set of mechanisms and prevention of burn-out shall be addressed under the project action.

The main expected results of the project are:

  1. Enhance the unified application of VEP-specific rehabilitation programme and tools in support individual treatment and pre-release programs and strengthen multi-agency cooperation mechanisms in accordance with the strategic documents adopted.
  2. Based on prison dynamic security principles, establish the prison units for collection, analysis, and sharing of information between prisons and other relevant agencies.
  3. Strengthen the system's institutional capacities on execution of criminal sanctions by establishing harmonised training curricula and training provision on VEP management.
  4. Establishment of staff protection and support mechanisms, as well as enhancement of the well-being of prison personnel who work with VEPs.

The project has an overall budget of 700,000 EUR and is financed under the Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2020–2025.