The introduction of a strong and highly demanded Probation service has very strong moral and ethical grounds as well as pure material justification. Though current legislation doesn’t mention re-socialization as one of the aims of the punishment, still policy documents, declaring transition from punitive justice towards restorative one as well as draft law on the establishment of a probation service in Armenia explicitly mention re-socialization as an important outcome of the work of the penal correction system. Opportunity for re-socialization and reintegration of offenders back into society is seen as an indispensable component of prospective restorative justice schemes.
However, there is a wide spread public opinion, which is also supported by sad practice, that our penitential system is mostly repressive and not conducive to re-socialization. The harsh character of the custodial environment as well as prejudice against persons sentenced to imprisonment has precisely the opposite effect over the offender. The offender gets out of prison even more rejected by the community than before the sentencing. This entails the higher risk of reoffending and further alienation and resentment. The reform of prison system which would effectively combat this reality is a complicated, expensive and long-term endeavor.
Much easier and cost-efficient approach is to avoid imprisonment to the maximum effect possible. Probation techniques and opportunities, combined with the use of modern technologies such as electronic monitoring make the goal of re-socialization and re-integration more achievable at least in comparison with imprisonment as it stands.
In addition to the moral aspect a reduction in the prison population will unload Armenian prisons. The prison overcrowding is another problem that hinders considerable improvements in material conditions and regime of prisons. Due to very limited resources allocated for the needs of persons deprived their liberty the less prisoners we have – the better conditions may be offered to the rest prison population in cases where the custodial sentence is unavoidable.
In short, the successful probation service will:
- contribute to better re-integration of persons sentenced to the society,
- prevent relapses,
- unload prisons and eventually cut state expenses in this area.