STRONG – Capacity building for female prisoners with a history of violence and abuse (2011-2013)

Background information

HEUNI is an implementing partner for a project entitled "STRONG - Capacity building on female prisoners with a history of violence and abuse", co-ordinated by the Scientific Institute of the German Medical Association. The aim of the project is to identify existing European programmes and practices that address women in prison who have experienced childhood, intimate partner or other forms of physical and sexual violence. HEUNI is responsible for analysing existing practices and programmes in Finland and in the other Nordic countries and for identifying good practices in this regard. Funding has been received from the European Commission DAPHNE III programme. The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health provides funds to cover the required cash-contribution for the project.

Main Findings

Female prisoners have multiple problems, dependencies and issues which are manifold and complex and which make it more difficult for staff to help and deal with them. Interviewed experts estimated that up to 70-90 percent of women inmates have experiences violence, which is also confirmed by statistics. There are however a lot of problems in identifying female prisoners with a history of violence. It also came clear from the discussions with the experts that almost all women who have been sentenced to prison for violent (including lethal) crimes have experienced violence also as victims. Therefore, there is a need to discuss violence from three perspectives: victim, perpetrator and witness perspectives when training the staff. The project training material was developed in line with these findings and piloted in three prisons. The training was well received by prison staff and got good feedback from the participants.

The project was initiated in April 2011. At the first two stages of the project, a literature review covering Finland and the other Nordic countries was prepared on the topic of female prisoners, and an internet-based questionnaire on the perceived needs of female prisoners who have experienced violence was disseminated among experts in Finland and the other Nordic countries. Expert interviews were conducted with Finnish and Scandinavian experts in late 2011. Based on the inputs from the different project partners, a training programme for prison staff was developed by the German project partners, with the aim of helping staff to better meet the needs of female prisoners who have experienced violence. A national seminar and three prison training sessions were organised in Finland in October 2012 in cooperation with the Training Institute for Prison and Probation Services (RSKK) in order to pilot the training material. The material was then finalised by the German project partners, and translated into Finnish in by the end of February 2013 when the project ended.

For more information:

Anniina Jokinen: anniina.jokinen(at)

Natalia Ollus: natalia.ollus(at)

Published 19.11.2019