International conference “10+ Experiences and New Challenges in Developing the Probation Service”

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To mark 10 years of professional operation of the probation service in Croatia, the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration organised the international conference “10+ Experiences and New Challenges in Developing the Probation Service”.

Addressing the participants of event, Minister Malenica highlighted that, in the ten years, the Croatian probation service has become internationally recognised for its work. 

“The beginnings were definitely not easy, it was necessary to harmonise the legislative framework with the EU acquis as well as international regulations and recommendations of the Council of Europe, build a new system and train the staff”, said the Minister, adding that drawing on the experiences of other countries was highly beneficial, especially those of Norway, the UK, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Romania, countries which have shared their know-how and experiences under different projects throughout the years, which the Croatian probation service then built into its own practice. 

Furthermore, the Minister emphasized that the probation service undoubtedly alleviated the burden for the prison system by increasing the number of alternative sanctions. “Today, some 3,500 offenders are under supervision of probation offices.  They are in daily contact with 104 officers from of the Central Office and 14 probation offices in Zagreb, Bjelovar, Dubrovnik, Gospić, Osijek, Požega, Pula, Rijeka, Sisak, Split, Varaždin, Vukovar and Zadar”, he pointed out. 

Minister Malenica was accompanied by State Secretary Josip Salapić, who gave a welcome speech, too. 

In the 10 years of the probation service, which supervises criminal offenders and provides them with support in the community, over 30 thousand offenders went through the Probation Service, and a vast majority of probations were completed successfully, said Assistant Minister for the Prison System and Probation Jana Špero. 
“As many as 90% of cases were completed successfully, only rarely did we not achieve the desired success after the court had given the offenders an opportunity to execute their sentence outside prison", stated Ms Špero. 

She highlighted the importance of probation as offenders are thus able to retain their jobs as well as maintain their social and family relationships. On the other hand, it is important for the society to know that, although the offenders are out of prison, they are not free but are under “the watchful eye of probation officers”. 

“They have a dual role in the life of an offender. First and foremost, they exercise control, but also provide assistance and support to the offender, to correct their deviation from normal behaviour so that they commit no more crimes in future and become the good neighbour we all want to have", underlined Špero. 
She added that motivated officers are a necessary precondition for quality rehabilitation of offenders, so “the greatest challenge is to retain the motivation of probation officers to continue doing this complex job with a high level of enthusiasm and professionalism”. 

Mr Goran Brkić, Head of Probation Sector, said that there are currently around 3,600 offenders in the probation system. He added that, in the beginnings, 10 years ago, they mostly handled offenders who had committed less serious crimes, whereas today they also assist perpetrators of the gravest crimes such as murder, rape or robbery. 

Croatian probation experts at the conference exchanged experiences with their colleagues from Latvia, Norway, Romania, Spain, Slovenia and the Ukraine, and discussed the future challenges of further development of the service supervising criminal offenders and supporting them in their communities.

The conference was funded from the Fund for Bilateral Relations under the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2014 – 2021.