This event builds on the Presence’s long-standing partnership with the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s Office. Our partnership with a broad variety of justice actors allows the OSCE Presence to look at different angles when supporting justice reform. Justice reform must be comprehensive to be effective. This means not only a reform of laws and structures, but also introducing measures to increase the trust of the public in the justice system. One important part of this trust is whether people feel safe in their society.
Putting offenders in prison is not the only way to make people feel safe. The Presence has recommended an increased use of alternatives to custody, including probation. Probation helps to ensure a fair criminal justice process. In appropriate cases, probation is more efficient than imprisonment, and more effective – because it combines accountability with rehabilitation, with the aim to successfully re-integrate the offender into society. In fact, deprivation of liberty should be a measure of last resort.
We have therefore been actively involved for a number of years, supporting the Ministry of Justice in establishing a functional National Probation Service and in contributing to its effectiveness. I am very pleased to see that the number of offenders on probation has continuously increased, from 705 in 2009 to about 19,300 offenders in 2015. When we talk about probation, we should also pay attention to a system used to increase effectiveness in supervising detainees, which is electronic monitoring.
Electronic monitoring is an approach to offender management that reduces the prison population while keeping offenders under supervision. Since the early 1990s, electronic monitoring programmes have been successfully used in countries around the world, for pre-trial monitoring and as an alternative sentence. It maintains public safety and builds trust, while avoiding the negative effects of imprisonment. Electronic monitoring cannot stand alone, however: it increases the oversight of individuals, but it must be combined with rehabilitation efforts. This makes it a vital tool for the probation system.
Although electronic monitoring programmes rely on technology, the administration of the programme is the key to their success. A crucial part of this is strong inter-institutional co-operation between all actors: those advising and defending suspects; those making judgements; those implementing sentences. This event is the first of six awareness-raising events on alternatives to custody that we will hold throughout the country, in close co-operation with the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s Office. With your participation, we can make the justice system fairer and more effective, put our emphasis on the rehabilitation and re-integration of the offender into society and improve the public trust in these institutions.
(Remarks for the Head of Presence at the awareness-raising event on alternatives to custody)