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In European correctional facilities, inmates are prepared to reintegrate into society after their release. But this is not always successful, as the high recidivism rate of former prisoners shows. The NEXT STEPS project aims to break this vicious circle of multiple prison sentences. In doing so, NEXT STEPS ties up with the successful Eramus+ project "STEPS", which was carried out between 2018 and 2020. The follow-up project started on 01 January 2022. It will last 30 months.

The project partners jointly establish close cooperation with regional stakeholders from the partner countries. These include correctional facilities, companies, vocational training institutions, volunteer escorts such as sports clubs, and others.

The project cooperates with the German baseball club BSV Wassenberg. The sports club conducts volunteer baseball training sessions for inmates in prisons and accepts them as active participants in the club after their sentence. In this way, BSV provides prisoners with an accompanying and stable structure during their prison sentence and also after their release.

During the project period, the European project partners establish a process chain which is based on close cooperation between the central regional actors and thus, on the one hand, contributes to the integration and resocialization of former inmates and, on the other hand, accompanies and supports them on their way into the primary labor market. Thus, companies get the opportunity to recruit skilled workers, some of whom are already well qualified and motivated, since the sports activities in the correctional facilities not only prepare prisoners socially for release, but also help them acquire and improve competencies such as the ability to work in a team, willingness to learn, and communication skills for subsequent employment in cooperation with other services offered by the correctional facilities. The process chain also supports prison staff, pedagogues, youth workers, educational managers and support staff. 

The jointly developed results within the project support correctional institutions in terms of resocialization and contribute to the successful reintegration of (former) inmates into society and the labor market. NEXT STEPS takes into account and complements the individual and personal plans for inmates pursued in many institutions as well as state and other voluntary regular services such as the probation service, supervision of conduct, charitable and church accompaniment, and others.

The justice system's approach in North Rhine-Westphalia has shown that the placement rate after successful acquisition of vocational qualifications within the correctional facilities is particularly high. This placement rate confirms that those prisoners who receive integration assistance both in preparation for release and in aftercare have a low risk of recidivism. This situation applies to all partner countries involved.

The project results are designed to be sustainable beyond the end of the project, as the project partners continue to maintain and expand the established regional networks of organizations that want to work with correctional facilities to re-integrate inmates into the labor market and society.

Based on the experiences of this project, another associated project called PERSPEKTIVE aims to realize the full development potential in the area of reintegration of inmates. In this process, the project partners can draw on the project results of NEXT STEPS. The state initiative Handwerk im Hafthaus also deals with the task of how to improve access to the labor market for ex-offenders, whereby the project content developed in NEXT STEPS can also provide support.