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Publication date:10 November 2016

Criminal detention and alternatives: fundamental rights aspects in EU cross-border transfers

EU Member States have largely implemented, and started applying, three instruments on transferring prison sentences, probation measures and alternative sanctions, as well as pre-trial supervision measures, to other Member States. This report provides an overview of their first experiences with these measures, highlighting both best practices and shortcomings.


In 2014, the European Commission requested FRA to provide evidence-based advice on the fundamental rights aspects of three EU Framework Decisions in the area of criminal justice. The three decisions relate to the cross-border transfer of prisoners, to probation and alternatives to imprisonment, and to the European Supervision Order which covers alternatives to pre-trial detention.


The deadline for Member States to implement these three EU Framework Decisions have all expired. However, many EU Member States have not implemented these decisions and even fewer have applied them to any cases. In addition, a European Commission report of February 2014, which recognises the efforts made by Member States, found that some Member States have only partially transposed part of the Framework Decisions’ provisions. Given that, as of 1 December 2014, the European Commission can launch infringement proceedings against non-compliant Member States, there is a need for further evidence to support Member States’ implementation of these Framework Decisions.

Currently, more needs to be done to improve fundamental rights in this area. This includes facilitating the social rehabilitation of people who are sentenced, released on probation, or awaiting trial, through better and greater use of these Framework Decisions. Therefore, the European Commission is interested in trying to support Member States in the practical implementation of these Decisions by identifying barriers and signposting promising practices.


After preparatory work in 2014, the project began formally in 2015 with desk research across all EU Member States on alternatives to detention and imprisonment – pre- and post-trial, as well as on the transfer of prisoners, as covered by the three Framework Decisions.

The desk research will be supplemented by limited, but targeted, fieldwork research in a number of EU Member States. This qualitative research will obtain specific information concerning the views and experiences of professionals that aims to gain an understanding of how processes work in practice. Questions will explore information on the nature of informed consent, as well as on the incentives and disincentives for professionals to work with alternatives to detention and imprisonment. Other issues that could be considered are the frequency of use of such alternatives. Such information will help to assess the Framework Decisions’ potential for the social integration of people deprived of their liberty during and after criminal procedures, and thus aims to improve fundamental rights in this area.

The final results are expected in 2016.

The research findings will feed into FRA’s wider work in the area of access to justice, including the right to interpretation and translation and the right to information in criminal proceedings in the EU.