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NHC restarted penitentiary staff training in North Macedonia

26 March 2021

Last month, the NHC organized the first of five online trainings for penitentiary staff working with juveniles in the newly opened juvenile institution Educational Correctional Institution Tetovo in North Macedonia. These trainings are part of the project ‘Towards a Safe, Stimulating and Rehabilitative Prison Environment for Children and Juveniles in Conflict with the Law in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia’, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and implemented in cooperation with the Dutch Custodial Institutions Agency. This first three-day training on the topic ‘Professional Approach’ is part of a series of online trainings provided by NHC senior expert Annette van den Bosch and Eelke Dijkstra, senior trainer at the Educational Institute of the Dutch Custodial Institutions Agency.

Tetovo is a newly opened institution with many new staff members. Many new prison police officers in particular started the job with no experience in an Educational Correctional Institution. It has been a big challenge for many to work in a new environment where a professional pedagogical approach is at the core of everything you do. What I fortunately see is that the Tetovo management is aware of these challenges and puts a lot of energy in teambuilding. Senior workers are also functioning as role models. – Annette van den Bosch, NHC senior expert

The NHC cooperates closely with the North Macedonian Directorate for Execution of Sanctions, the management team of ECI Tetovo and penitentiary staff members themselves to increase their capacity and competences to work with detained juveniles. By training both prison police and treatment staff in the new juvenile institution, the NHC aims to build a broadly supported pedagogical climate much needed in an Educational Centre for Juveniles such as the Tetovo institution.

It is a privilege to work together with the staff of ECI Tetovo. The training sessions consist of five topics, ranging from the professional approach to anger management. In these training sessions we share our experiences and visions, focusing on a safe living and working environment in the institution. – Eelke Dijkstra, senior trainer

We hope we can contribute to building a good multidisciplinary team in the institution. The topics ‘Professional Approach’ and ‘Integrity’ will give us an opportunity to discuss and to get to know each other, while also providing  the possibility to set goals in professional working. – Annette van den Bosch, NHC senior expert

Now more than ever, considering restrictions on international travel due to the current pandemic, the NHC relies greatly on its cooperation with local partners, such as the Macedonian Helsinki Committee (MHC). The MHC’s recently published monitoring report on the state of the penitentiaries and correctional facilities in the Republic of North Macedonia illustrates some of the serious challenges the North Macedonian penitentiary system faces, including those concerning the fulfilment of basic needs and education. NHC supports these recommendations as Van den Bosch expresses her hope that “education and regular school programmes will start soon in order to give juveniles a structural possibility to develop themselves” while also referring to the need for an improved national infrastructure for resocialization, which “will help youngsters to reintegrate better in society”.

The training in North Macedonia is one of many examples of how, despite restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the NHC itself continues to strive for a more rehabilitative environment for juveniles in conflict with the law in the Balkan region.

For more information on how we continued our work during Covid-19, please read our article here or take a look at our Covid-19 Solidarity programme, which supports civil society across the Eastern Partnership region to continue to uphold human rights in times of the pandemic.

About the Criminal Justice Reform Programme

We believe a criminal justice system focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment is better at contributing to safer societies. The Criminal Justice Programme promotes and supports criminal justice reform that works to ensure offenders are able to successfully re-enter society and do not re-offend.  By providing tools and trainings to prison staff or probation officers, we help improve the implementation of justice. By bringing together high-level officials, policy experts, and seasoned practitioners from different countries, we contribute to the development of the most effective policies and practices. We also promote collaboration between different actors in the justice system, such as judges, prosecutors, probation, prison, and civil society organisations to ensure reforms pursued are effectively implemented throughout the entire system.