As of January 2016 Civil Society Institute (CSI) NGO has started implementation of a two-year project “Towards a Probation Service in Armenia” which is funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).
The project aims to contribute to establishment of a fully-fledged functioning probation service in Armenia, as well as effective use of non-custodial and early release measures, and transition from punitive to restorative approach; to challenge the overuse of imprisonment; help decrease in the prison population; build proportionate responses to crime; and facilitate rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders as well as consolidate efforts among different stakeholders and facilitate involvement of civil society organizations in development and implementation of reintegration programmes.
The Armenian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has recently published for public scrutiny draft Law on Probation and draft Law on Probation Service. At the moment some of the functions of a probation service are being carried out by the Alternative Sanctions Enforcement Division (ASED) of the Penitentiary Department under the MoJ. Moreover, since June 2015 two pilot probation offices have been operated in Shengavit (Yerevan) and Vanadzor respectively in the frames of the project supported by the Council of Europe.
Civil Society Institute, in cooperation with the MoJ, will work closely with the ASED and when a probation service is established with its staff in order to:
- Create working tools for the staff of the Probation Service,
- Strengthen capacity of probation officers,
- Contribute to establishment of technically equipped workshops for probationers where the latter will have an opportunity to attend vocational training. This will help them become more competitive at a job market and will facilitate their re-socialization,
- Enhance capacities and attitudes of relevant stakeholders, in particular, judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers in relation to enforcing alternative sanctions and help them understand how the probation service functions,
- Raise awareness of various stakeholders and general public on the advantages of the use of alternative sanctions and importance of probation,
- Increase cooperation between relevant government stakeholders, CSOs and the Probation Service to provide services to offenders across Armenia.
CSI has been working on penal reform in Armenia since 2001. Promotion of the use of alternative measures and sanctions is one of the priorities of the organization. Since 2012, CSI actively supports establishment of a probation service in Armenia. More specifically, a number of round table discussions, expert workshops with participation of relevant stakeholders have been organized, research carried out and recommendations on how to improve both law and practice in this field presented, a study tour for representatives of relevant public bodies to learn the experience of establishing a probation service and capacity building workshops were organized for the staff of the Penitentiary Department, including the ASED. Apart from that, capacity building activities aimed at rehabilitation of offenders serving alternatives sanctions were organized.
Civil Society Institute NGO