Management of cultural diversity within penitentiary contexts through transformative learning processes

Francesca Torlone, Francesca Bianchi


Cultural and religious pluralism require the development of a “models of coexistence” that combine the rules of reception with the rules of belonging, favoring mutual recognition in respect of diversity and fundamental rights in everyday life.
This theme concerns also the penitentiary system because of the number of foreign inmates coming from different nationalities (33% of the total number of detainees that are in Italian prisons, year 2019). Foreign inmates are bearers of cultures, values, beliefs, practices, that are not always known or recognized by the detention context.

Diversity Management represents a model that combine security needs with educational needs, helping both professionals and institutions to develop the ability to cope with diversity. Diversity Management also helps to modify individual behaviors and to develop institutional and organizational culture.
The role of institutional actors, which are close to inmates, is relevant: they oversee security tasks but also functions of integration, growth, setting and recognition of people in detention.

The detention institution is called on changing into an environment that promotes:
• the understanding of problems encountered by professionals while working;
• the creation of learning processes through which individuals may produce knowledge and behaviors, that help to improve work practices and transform work contexts.

Foreseen Results
Setting up and development of a learning community among Italian and foreign professionals of the penitentiary system (Wardens, Penitentiary Policy Heads and Officers, Penitentiary Educators) with the aim of sharing experiences, artefacts, critical issues and potential solutions in the view of institutional transformation.

The Course is the result of a collaborative approach that allowed insider professionals and outsider researchers to identify the critical issues and emerging problems referring the coexistence of people coming from multi-ethnic contexts within the penitentiary institutions.
Through an increased knowledge of the penitentiary context, researchers elaborated and shared a hypothesis of an experiential, participatory and situated training course with the insider groups involved.

Learning activities
The initial introductory meeting will be focused on diversity management issues. The Course will follow a path aimed at sharing experiences among the Italian and foreign institutions and participants (benchmarking visit).
The critical professional situations of the institution will be analyzed in order to elaborate specific improvement actions, which will be implemented in the penitentiary contexts.

Professionals coming from three penitentiary institutions in Perugia, Pisa, Prato. Minimum number of participants: 12.

6 CFU (48 hours)

November 2019 – May 2020

Final certificate
A certificate of participation will be issued by the University of Siena at the end of the activities.