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Director Generals of Prison Administration from Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia Meet in The Hague for Juvenile Detention Reform

15 November 2018

On 6 and 7 November 2018, the NHC hosted a meeting between Director Generals of Prison Administration, civil society representatives, and national and international experts on juvenile criminal justice in The Hague. This was in relation to the NHC’s current project: Towards a Safe, Stimulating and Rehabilitative Prison Environment for Children and Juveniles in Conflict with the Law in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia.

Building sustainable institutional capacity and broader regional cooperation in Juvenile Detention Reform

Building on progress previously made, NHC Executive Director Pepijn Gerrits described the objectives of the meeting (and project) as increasing the sustainability of changes and broadening cooperation.

the current project aims to strengthen the capacity of criminal justice institutions in a more sustainable way” – Pepijn Gerrits

One of the aims – to broaden cooperation– was immediately visible at the meeting in The Hague. In addition to civil society and the ombudsmen in the respective countries, the scope now includes government officials.

There was a constructive discussion on juvenile criminal justice administration, challenges that actors within the institutions face, and the living, working and education climate. The discussion highlighted the multi-level cooperation necessary to sustain and improve conditions for juveniles in conflict with the law. Nehat Thaci, Director General Kosovo Correctional Service, noted it was, “very important to have this opportunity to discuss the similarities and differences in the challenges we, and our colleagues in Albania and Macedonia, face.” Director Stojanovic, of the Directorate for the Execution of Sanctions in Macedonia, noted that a new facility for juveniles will open in the spring of 2019. This move, which comes a year and a half into Stojanovic’s term means, “conditions for juveniles in detention in Macedonia will immediately and improve.”

Transferring expert knowledge and skills:

The discussion highlighted the significant strides made by governments to improve and develop legislation in this area. However, as Alban Muriqi of the Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims noted, “When it comes to implementation there is a lot to be done.” Criminal justice actors and institutions need expert input to develop the knowledge, skills and resources necessary to implement the standards from national and international legislation.

Kirsten Hawlitschek, Executive Director of EuroPris, spoke about the benefits of the organisation in terms of expert input and best practices. She described EuroPris as a “one stop shop on prison practice and methods in Europe.” It provides access to an expert network with which countries can improve the conditions for juvenile detainees and address broader issues within prison administration. EuroPris hosts expert groups, workshops, summer courses, conferences and, crucially, provides access to contact databases, the European Prison Information System and the Knowledge Management Systems. Hawlitschek noted that existing members of EuroPris find knowledge sharing mechanisms crucial to the development of criminal justice administration.

Kirsten Hawlitschek, Executive Director of EuroPris presenting it as "one stop shop on prison practice and methods in Europe."

In her concluding remarks, Hawlitschek highlighted the importance of cooperation on complex issues as she quoted an old proverb, “if you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.” The response to Hawlitschek’s presentation was generally positive; referring back to the quoted proverb, Stefan Çipa, Albanian Director General of Prisons, noted, “We must walk far together” and that “Albania will soon be a full and active member to broaden (their) cooperation.”

We must walk far together” – Stefan Çipa

Raoul Nolen, Director of Young in Prison (YiP), presented the Contributing Positively to Society (COPOSO) methodology. COPOSO is a creative support programme for juvenile detainees.  Which aims to “stimulate youth to dream about their future and to enable them to contribute positively to society.” In collaboration with civil society NGOs and prison administrative authorities in Kosovo, the methodology will be implemented in Albania, and Macedonia. Nolen emphasized its implementation would involve continued training of actors at every level of juvenile criminal justice administration to enable long-term sustainability of safe, stimulating and rehabilitative conditions for juvenile detainees.

not only about bringing knowledge to (Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia), but learning mutually” – Peer van der Helm

The delegations also heard from Dutch experts on juvenile detention, including presentations by Professor van der Helm and Veronique van Miert of Leiden University of Applied Sciences. Professor van der Helm presented on the importance of prison climate for reducing youth recidivism. He emphasized that the Netherlands also benefits from cooperation, stating, “It is not only about bringing knowledge to (Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia), but learning mutually.” As an example, he shared that the ingenuity of criminal justice actors he observed on previous visits to target countries introduced him to new possibilities.

Multi-agency cooperation in Safety House, The Hague

Led by Safety House Process Manager Els Nulkes, the delegation also visited a Safety House. During the visit, representatives from the Youth Protection Board, Youth Protection West, the municipality of The Hague and a representative from the Safety House itself shared how they cooperate. Some in the delegation found the way organisations in the Netherlands cooperate was quite new and innovative for Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo.

The meeting was the first of an annual meeting that will inform development and implementation of the project.