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Promoting rehabilitation rather than retribution in criminal justice— Ukraine: Working together to develop probation

05 August 2020

Since the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, Ukraine has been working towards significant justice reform. We have been working with the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, judges, prosecutors, probation workers, and international experts to further the country’s young probation system. In this interview with Head of PR for Latvian Probation Imants Mozers (IM), Dutch Probation Manager Jochum Wildeman (JW), and NHC Programme Manager Koen Goei (KG), they discuss the advantages of international collaboration and the importance of working with the right partners.

Jochum and Imants, you are both probation professionals with busy work schedules in your own countries. What benefits are there for you to participate in this international collaboration project in Ukraine? 

JW: As a Dutch Probation professional, I can learn from working with my Ukrainian counterparts, and seeing how they approach certain aspects of their work. More generally, I find people often think that working with different cultures will be challenging. But I have found that not to be true. It has been quite easy to work with people from different backgrounds, and it has been a positive experience. Every time I go to Ukraine, or other countries, I see— if you have an open mind— how easy it is to work together, learn from each other, and implement best practices.

IM: Throughout my professional career, the biggest lessons I’ve learned were in international projects. This project in Ukraine gives me the opportunity to look at my own work in Latvia from an outside perspective. It can help me find ways to be more effective in my work back home.

KG: In the Netherlands, we have this culture of coming together and jointly looking for solutions. The benefit of jointly looking for solutions— and including more viewpoints— is through an exchange of viewpoints, you get the best result.

This project in Ukraine gives me the opportunity to look at my own work in Latvia from an outside perspective. It can help me find ways to be more effective in my work back home.”

How has this project been an example of the importance of working with the right partners?

KG: In the Netherlands, we have probation system that is about 200 years old. For a Dutch probation communications specialist, it is hard to imagine a situation in which probation is brand new in the criminal justice system and in the broader society, and to work with zero budget. Therefore, I thought we should work with someone who had the experience of seeing the beginning of a probation in his country— when nobody in criminal justice or the public knew what it was. Latvia was in a similar position to Ukraine ten to fifteen years ago, so I thought Imants would be a great fit.

Imants, can you tell me about your experience doing communications for the new system of probation in Latvia and where it is today?

IM: In Latvian probation there were initial failures in public relations. This led to the development of myths among the general public that probation is lenient. Together with my colleagues, I dedicated quite some time, a few years actually, to rebuilding trust and making probation look professional and relevant. Today probation in Latvia is one of the most respected institutions in the field of justice and is widely accepted by public. This allows us to be more creative in how we interact with the general public  on topics related to probation. At the same time,  this gives us more freedom to make bolder alliances with the general public, involving them in our initiatives.