Asia, Cambodia: Sipar – Reading Behind Bars Project

asie2The UNESCO Chair and its small team are constantly researching new studies, projects, innovative practices and any and all information related to education in prison in order to enrich the statement on the current status of education in prison on the international scene. Each discovery of new projects leads us to believe that there are so many more projects to be discovered, explore and share through our website and newsletter, in both French and English.

We are happy to share with you the fruits of our first e-mail exchange with the Franco-Cambodian organization, Sipar. Founded in 1992, this NGO works in education with a specific mission to promote access to reading as an essential lever in development.

In 2011, Sipar developed the Reading Behind Bars project that led to the creation of libraries in all 26 Cambodian prisons. Read more about this project in English, click here

Phase two of the Reading Behind Bars project (March 2016 – February 2019) co-funded by the Agence française de Développement (French Development Agency), “Development of libraries and programmes in prisons favouring the socio-professional reintegration of prisoners in Cambodia” is currently in development.

asie 1In this new project, increasing the volume of documents made available to the prisoners in the 26 libraries, digital library management, the certification of guards and prisoner librarians, and sustainable strategies make up the first phase. The second phase resides in the implementation of partnerships with the departments involved and two NGOs to develop literacy classes and basic education (primary level), preparation to reintegration services, and professional training. The third phase concerns training and strengthening the skills of correctional services agents from the central level to the local level.

Here are the major recent developments:

  • The prison population has seen a sharp increase—from 15,700 prisoners in mid-2015 to 18,700 today, including 1,500 women and 540 minors (14 to 17 years), due to an increase in drug trafficking and more efficiency policing.
  • The new CEO for the General Prison Department, former commissioner General CHAN Kimseng, seems very motivated in pursuing efficient reform in partnership with the other departments and NGOs and IOs.
  • An improvement in the intervention of NGOs and IOs in reintegrating prisoners, thanks to the implementation of a platform of cooperation with the main players: Prisons Fellowship Cambodia, Caritas Cambodia, International Red Cross (which has named a coordinator) and Sipar. A memo of the meeting with these agencies is attached.
  • The Ministry of Education’s involvement provincially in the introduction of literacy classes has resulted in concrete action in at least 5 prisons, and 5 more are planned. The Ministry of Labour and Professional Training will provide technical and professional qualifying training sessions (electricity, mechanics, sewing, agriculture, etc.) in several prisons on the model of the very dynamic prison in Koh Kong.

Sipar trainers work with guards and prisoners in preparation and installation; they work together, and in some cases, men and women can visit the libraries together.