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Treatment of Violent Offenders in Croatian Prisons and Penitentiaries

Project facts

  • Funder: EVD – MPAP
  • Partner(s): Dutch Ministry of Justice, Probation Service, Croatian Ministry of Justice
  • Project period: January 2008 – June 2009
  • For information mail to: office@nhc.nl

Violent behaviour in prisons is a serious issue in Croatia. The problem is aggravated by overcrowding, and by insufficient qualifications of the prison staff. And the number of prisoners serving long terms sentences for violent crimes is still increasing. The situation does not answer to International or European human rights standards, but changes are difficult to achieve. The Croatian Ministry of Justice has little expertise in this field, and there is a lack programmes for behavioural interventions to deal with violent behaviour.

The purpose of the project was to help the Croatian prison administration become better able to reduce violent behaviour in prisons, and thereby accomplish a lower rate of recidivism. So-called train-the-trainer programmes were developed for this purpose. These programmes were directed towards security staff and treatment staff in prisons. The training for the treatment staff focused on aggression management techniques to inmates. The security staff was trained in coping, with violent prisoners. Selected training participants were trained for becoming a trainer in the respective topic amd started the roll-out of the training to all prison staff (guard and treatments staff) of the Croactian prison service. This roll-out was implemented independently by the Croatian trainers and continued also after the end of the project. The training programme on how to deal with violent inmates became part of the standard training cirriculum for new security staff.

As a result of the project the capacity of the Croatian prison staff to deal with violent behaviour improved significantly.  It will probably take some more years for the statistics to reflect a decrease in violence and recidivism, but the heads of security in the Croatian institutions already noticed that the situation in their prisons improved and that the security staff developed a better attitude towards the detainees.