“Probation: A Safer Society”. Kyiv Mayor’s Office hosted the first open forum devoted to European system of working with criminal offenders: rehabilitation without incarceration. As part of the forum, a press conference devoted to the fifth anniversary of passing the Probation Act was held at Kyiv City State Administration.
International and Ukrainian experts, lawyers and volunteers expressed their stance as regards the safety of a society that wants to live without crime.
“Probation is an important step on the way of enhancing the safety of our society. People who commit crimes cannot be hidden behind prison walls. We believe that this problem must be solved by systemic work, which can serve as an alternative to incarceration. We were told, even very recently, why an offender needs to be forgiven. But no, we don’t think so, for probation is not forgiveness. The society demands fair sentence as the punishment for crime. However, one has to bear in mind the future and think about what awaits an offender afterwards. Any court that wants to enter a fair judgment must see the person, not only the crime he or she committed,” Oleh Yanchuk, Probation Center Director, believes.
Thanks to probation authorities, courts take into consideration the nature of criminal offense and socio-psychological traits of the perpetrator.
“Probation not only envisages greater safety but also helps save on maintaining convicts. A prison is not only a “university of crime” but also a huge army of unemployed maintained by taxpayer money. Therefore, our goal is to reduce the prison population, increase the number of probation clients and engage them in the national economy. It will make the society much safer at a lower price than in prison conditions. We have a lot of proof gathered in various European Union jurisdictions. And in this aspect, Ukraine began to move forward with confidence,” Dovydas Vitkauskas, Head of the EU’s Pravo-Justice project, said.
In Ukraine, reform of probation system as an alternative to incarceration continues for five years. During this time, probation authorities handled over 300 thousand convicts, and administrative penalties were applied to 81.7 thousand offenders. 98% of offenders do not commit another crime while on probation.
“In my country, the Netherlands, probation has been in existence for 200 years. Maintaining one convict in our prisons costs 250 euros, but if the convict is required to do community service, this cost drops fivefold. Here’s an example of the father of a 4-year-old, a man called Johann who robbed several shops. He was kept in police custody for 28 days, and then, he did community service. Thanks to probation, his maintenance costs amounted to 3 thousand euros, but his incarceration would have cost 15 thousand euros. Unlike traditional imprisonment, probation has advantages to all: the offender, the society and the country in general,” Eric Vincken, Deputy Director at Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC), said.
A quite interesting example from his own life experience was cited by Hryhorii Tonkyi, 37, who was charged six times with criminal liability. Taking advantage of the chance for rehabilitation, he became a probation volunteer.
“In the past, I wore a prison tattoo. But now, I am happy that I was able to drastically change my life, having become a successful businessman and paying 100 thousand hryvnias in taxes to the state,” the ex-convict shares his experience.
As practice shows, local communities place an increasing trust in probation — a system capable of enhancing safety of the society. According to official data, 61 probation bodies in 17 regions of Ukraine were included to regional specific-purpose programs.
Borrowing from European experience, Probation Center implements the world’s best practices from many years of this system’s experience. It works closely with Pravo-Justice experts, who developed a personnel strategy, professional standards, and a system of inspections and assessing the risk of repeated crime.
Thanks to joint efforts, the Center was able to improve training programs and start working on implementing a Register of Convicts and Persons in Police Custody. Over 15 million euros was allocated for implementation of this European project.
By Valentyn Kovalskyi