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J-CAP: Judicial cooperation for the enhancement of mutual recognition regarding probation measures and alternative sanctions

15% of the inmates held in Europe today are nationals of other European countries than the one where they are carrying out their sentence. This tends to hinder the offender’s reintegration process, as they have limited or no ties to the community where they are carrying out their (conditional) sentence. The Council of the European Union recognized this problem, and in 2008 called for more judicial cooperation in the (transnational) justice chain, and for the promotion of alternative sanctions towards social rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders through Framework Decisions FD 2008/947. This decision focuses on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to judgments and probation decisions with a view to the supervision of probation measures and alternative sanctions, with the aim to ‘enhance the prospects of the sentenced person of being reintegrated into society’. FD 947 as practitioners have come to know it, enables judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers to ask for the sentence of an offender be carried out in different EU country than where the offense was committed, in order to ensure more successful reintegration into the society where they have the most ties to the community. However, the instrument’s transposition to national legislations proved to be troublesome, and many obstacles to the FD’s full implementation across the EU remain. Implementation levels fall short especially because judicial professionals have not adhered to the Framework Decision.

As a result, J-CAP was established as a transnational initiative taking steps to promote and facilitate the implementation of the Framework Decision 2008/947 on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to judgments and probation decisions, aimed at will primarily engaging with the actors on which the activation of the instrument falls – judges, magistrates and prosecutors.

Our Aim

The J-CAP project aims to improve the execution of Framework Decision (FD) 2008/947, which lays down rules for facilitating the recognition and application of probation measures and alternative sanctions among the European Member States. The overarching goal is to deepen cooperation between judicial authorities across the Member States and address the issues that are hindering the successful implementation of the directive.

The project has four main objectives, which are to:

  1. Lay the groundwork for successfully supporting judges and magistrates, but also lawyers in executing Framework Decision 2008/947;
  2. Contribute to an increased capacity among practitioners to use the FD, deepened understanding of its goals and operational aspects, as well as of other EU MSs systems and available measures;
  3. Foster reflection among practitioners, which will, in turn, support a higher degree of harmonisation between legal and judicial cultures;
  4. Support the rehabilitation and respect for the rights of foreign individuals on probation, simultaneously reiterating the relevance of judicial cooperation instruments.

Implementation activities of the project

The project aims to achieve the main objectives by:

  • Developing a stakeholder mapping and creating an external Advisory Board
  • Conducting Thematic Workshops in the form of focus groups
  • Producing a guidance booklet and tailor-made informative materials for practitioners
  • Updating the EU probation project software
  • Implementing transnational awareness-raising symposiums, national roundtables and the mid-term virtual conference, thereby promoting transnational cooperation and coordination between judges and magistrates of different EU MSs, and closer interaction between them
  • Designing and launching the Common Outline for the EU MSs for assessing rehabilitation goals and achievements
  • Developing short training videos from the material collected during the “Judicial Talks” and other activities

Overall, the project’s activities aim to highlight the importance of the J-CAP and fundamental issues that hinder its successful implementation, and work towards deeper cooperation between judicial authorities. By fostering “strengthened cooperation and exchange of information between competent national authorities”, the project ultimately advances the objective of more effective and holistic rehabilitation policies and practices.

Project Implementation

Project website:

Funder: European Union, DG Justice

Partners: Judicial Training Institute (IGO-IFJ), Leopold-Franzens University of Innsbruck (LFUI), European Strategies Consulting (ESC), IPS Innovative Prison Systems, Agenfor International Foundation (AGF), National School for the Judiciary (ENM)

Project period: 24 months (April 2022-March 2024)

Budget: 600 000 EUR