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Final Matra Rule of Law Training Programme of 2018 on Detention and Alternative Sanctions

16 October 2018

From 4 to 11 October 2018, thirty-six participants took part in the final Matra Rule of Law Training programme of the year in The Hague. The programme was the first within the set of trainings offered focusing on Detention and Alternative Sanctions (DAS). It is one of the two programmes fully designed and implemented by the NHC.

Participants in the Matra Rule of Law Training on Detention and Alternative Sanctions at a networking function in The Hague.

Detention and Alternative Sanctions training: a demand-driven exercise

Matra Rule of Law Training Programmes are demand-driven in nature and the latest training on Detention and Alternative Sanctions was no different. Countries across Europe, and indeed the world, are experiencing increased pressure on their prison systems. Rising rates of incarceration and pre-trial detention mean that many prison systems suffer from overcrowding and exert unsustainable costs on national budgets. Prison conditions suffer as a result of such problems and, as well as raising questions about prisoners’ human rights, this has implications for wider society as processes of re-integration are affected and recidivism increases.

These challenges raise a number of questions. What are the possible alternatives to detention and how can these maximize successful reintegration? How can prison conditions be improved to have a positive effect on perpetrators, victims and society as a whole?

The DAS training programme aims to have provided members of the judiciary, criminal justice officials and policy advisors with the skills, knowledge and networks to better address these complex questions and to encourage reforms and international best practice in their own countries.”

The DAS training programme aims to have provided members of the judiciary, criminal justice officials and policy advisors with the skills, knowledge and networks to better address these complex questions and to encourage reforms and international best practice in their own countries. In particular, the training programme aimed to share expert knowledge from the Dutch criminal justice system. Over the course of the training participants learned about professional practices in Dutch prisons; the training that Dutch prison employees receive in executing criminal sanctions in a manner that is respectful of fundamental rights and the specific risks faced by children in detention.

There was a particular emphasis on knowledge sharing about the Netherland’s probation system, one of the oldest and most efficient systems of alternative criminal sanctions in the world. Focusing on the theory and operations of the Dutch probation system enables participants to return to their home countries with an understanding of how an effective system of alternative sanctions can significantly reduce stress on national criminal justice systems. Specifically, the training aimed to demonstrate that an effective system of alternative sanctions must strike a delicate balance between sanction, reintegration and the protection of victims and society.

Participants in the training program thus left The Hague with a deeper understanding of what is necessary to create humane prison conditions and with the knowledge needed to enhance systems of alternative sanctions in their own countries. During the program, participants also had the chance to visit cultural and professional organizations relating to the training’s topic. They visited a Prison Museum, Forensic Psychiatric Clinic, and Transport and Support Service (DV&O), Department of Custodial Agency.

Participants in the training program thus left The Hague with a deeper understanding of what is necessary to create humane prison conditions and with the knowledge needed to enhance systems of alternative sanctions in their own countries.”

The program also introduced participants to a large and knowledge-sharing network on detention and alternative sanctions from their regions and the Netherlands. Engagement with this network, made up of experts and government officials from the Netherlands and the participants themselves, hopes to serve as a valuable resource in the development of effective systems of detention and alternative sanctions in participants’ home countries.

The Matra Rule of Law Training Programme was open to applicants from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and the Ukraine. It was organized and delivered in partnership with The Hague Academy for Local Governance and the University of Leiden. The program was financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.