A day in the life of a counsellor at PI Achterhoek Zutphen

7:30 - start: When I enter the building in the morning, I receive a pair of keys and an alarm, and I have to activate my pass. I always begin my mornings by checking the system in which relevant information is registered, such as hospital visits, staff reports and transfers. As a result, I know which detainees to expect during the educational activities.

Every week I make an overview of the timeslots during which detainees are expected to attend educational activities. Mornings and afternoons are divided into three activity blocks in which also sports, the library, time outdoors, visits, et cetera. are being recorded. Educational activities only form a small part of the daily routine of a detainee.

The national approach focuses on cooperation with internal and external partners, working together on reintegration by means of a personal approach, whereby self-reliance and responsibility of the detainees are key. After all, the prison population and educational needs of the detainees are far from homogeneous.

Digital learning becomes more and more popular. Detainees learn independently with assistance by a professional whenever needed. The material is uniform, and the detainee can continue with the same online material after a transfer.    

8:00 – 9:00: The detainees registered on the list come to the room for educational activities. Usually, there are 6 to 8 detainees at a time, each with an individual program. I guide them. The guidance can be focused on basic education, vocational education or specific courses detainees are taking at that time (LOI, PBNA, or courses that align with the education the detainees were attending outside the penitentiary institution - in that case, I usually contact the relevant educational institution).

  • Basic education

  • Literacy education

  • Dutch language (reading, listening, speaking and writing)

  • English language

  • Numeracy

  • Computer skills (typing,  text processing, spreadsheets, emailing, internet)

During these timeslots, detainees get called individually for an intake and for administering the Literacy Screener. Every detainee in our institution is being asked to complete the Literacy Screener.

Additional activities during these timeslots are copying, and logging in/logging off.

9:15 -10:15: Similar as described above.

10:30 – 11:30: Similar as described above.

11:30: Writing reports about the detainees that attended the morning sessions, processing mutations, producing passwords for new detainees and deleting passwords from detainees who left. In addition, I register alterations in various systems and I make passes with codes for the digital learning environment.

12:00: Break

12:30 – 13:00: Emptying my pigeonhole, responding to incoming speaker notes, welcoming volunteers and going over the to-do list for the rest of the day.

13:00 - 14:00: Similar as described above.

14:15 – 15:15: Similar as described above.

15:30 – 16:30: Similar as described above.

16:30: Writing reports and conducting other administrative tasks. In addition, I complete preparatory tasks, such as maintaining contacts with various educational institutions we cooperate with. These include PBNA (VCA), REO (exam bureau AOV), LOI (on an incidental basis), Open Universiteit (on an incidental basis), NTI (on an incidental basis), the Reading and Writing Foundation, and IVIO (cleaning education).

17:00: Going home.

Day in the life of a language volunteer

The language volunteer works according to a similar schedule, but in a separate room. The volunteer guides detainees who obtained low scores on the Literacy Screener, and/or detainees with a foreign background. 

Guidance takes place on an individual basis. As a result, there is a maximum of 6 to 7 detainees that attend these sessions per day. We use the method of Language for Life and the educational material of the Reading and Writing Foundation.



"GOAL interview: a client came to discuss a program for validation of employability skills, in which she is going to participate."

"In-house discussions with other counsellors and project managers on an unexpected issue with a student. We tried to solve the issue together. We had to contact another school."


“Presentation for unemployed people about possibilities to get involved into the Goal project and get free of charge orientation and guidance.”

“Orientation and guidance of adult people. 2 clients are consulted: they are unemployed and have plans for learning a new profession in order to find a job.“


“The prison population and educational needs of the detainees are far from homogeneous.”

 “Usually, there are 6 to 8 detainees at a time, each with an individual program. I guide them. The guidance can be focused on basic education, vocational education or specific courses detainees are taking at that time”


"Working with clients gives me energy and brings me joy, because between individual sessions I can see progress, changes, new beliefs, enrolment in education programmes and I can build good relationships with my clients."


"The feeling that I do a lot of good for my clients is priceless."

Czech Republic
Czech Republic

“At the start of every session, counsellors try to gather information about the client, his or her position within the family and wider friendship circles, and his or her health. They also explore the client’s feelings, ideas and motivation.”

“Based on the client’s answers, the counsellor selects ways to proceed in order to meet the client’s needs and goals.”


"All information, agreements made and steps taken during sessions are written down in the registration system"

“Even the names of persons clients have been talking about are registered in order to remember the whole communication line and, more importantly, to avoid them having to say things twice. It creates a sense of trust with our clients.”


from clients, counsellors and stakeholders


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