On November 22 a round table discussion on the expectations and prospects of development of the newly created Probation Service took place in Yerevan. The round table was organized by the Civil Society Institute NGO in cooperation with the State Probation Service.
Suren Qrmoyan, Deputy Minister of Justice of Armenia, Levon Avetisyan, Head of the State Probation Service as well as ambassadors, representatives of state agencies, international and local organizations participated in the event.
The main goal of the round table was to present newly created State Probation Service, its structure, functions and discuss the expectations and challenges facing it. The round table also was aimed at awareness raising and establishing a platform of cooperation for all the actors involved for better realization of the tasks of the Probation Service.
It should be reminded, that on May 17, 2016 the National Assembly of Armenia adopted the Law on Probation. On the 1st of September the Government decision on creation of the Probation Service under the Ministry of Justice came into force. That gave official start to the responsibilities vested in the new Probation Service.
In his welcoming speech the Deputy Minister of Justice Suren Qrmoyan noted that Probation service is a component of the restorative justice and, as a rule, it is possible to reach the goals of punishment without limiting the freedom of a person.
"Unlike previous alternative punishment system, the Probation service pays more attention to the re-socialization and reintegration of inmates, the ultimate goal of which is to reduce the re-offending"- stressed the deputy minister.
He also added that the Probation Service will also ensure the implementation of the new alternative punishments and preventive measures. It is expected that this will help to reduce the number of prison population in Armenia.
According to the Head of the State Probation Service Levon Avetisyan, at present as beneficiaries of the Service are registered 2798 persons, mainly those convicted for small and medium-gravity crimes. The Service should develop the policy of individualized work with each of them. Mr. AVetisyan also stressed that the Service needs working tools and mechanisms of cooperation and system of referral between various agencies to accomplish its functions.
The President of the Civil Society Institute NGO Artak Kirakosyan spoke about the importance of an effective cooperation for the development of the effective Probation service. "Numerous tasks have been vested in the Service by law. To be able to handle them the Probation Service is in need of constant cooperation with the different stakeholders and appropriate instruments and mechanisms. There is a lot of things in the to-do list and as an NGO representing the civil society sector we are trying to support this process as much as we can", - Mr. Kirakosyan said.
During the event the Risk and Needs Assessment tool, calculating the risk of harm and criminogenic needs of the beneficiaries of the Probation Service was presented. It had been developed by the Civil Society Institute NGO in cooperation with the predecessor of the Probation Service, the Division of the Implementation of the Alternative Sanctions of the Penitentiary Department of the Ministry of Justice of Armenia, and later, the State Probation Service itself.
"The Risk and Needs Assessment Tool of should be used to help us identify what kind of work we should do with the beneficiaries of the Probation service.", - noted the head of the State Probation Service Levon Avetisyan, expressing his hope that after pilot testing, the instrument would be implemented as a main tool of risk and criminogenic neeeds assessment and would rise the effectiveness of the work of the Probation service.
The head of the Social Support Division of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia, Astghik Minasyan, and the Deputy Head of the State Employment Service Agency Artak Simonyan presented existing opportunities of social support and employment for the beneficiaries of the Probation Service and also indicated ways of possible cooperation with state institutions and civil society organizations.
The round table was organized in the framework of "Towards the Probation Service in Armenia" project with the financial support of the UNDEF and with support of the OSCE office in Yerevan.