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Support to the probation service and the system of alternative sanctions in Montenegro

Montenegro became a candidate country for accession to the European Union in 2010 and since then the EU has screened the country concerning the functioning of the judiciary and enforcement of fundamental rights. One of the recommendations given to Montenegro by the EU involves the improvement of prison conditions: the prison population needs to be reduced and alternative sanctions as well as conditioned sentencing need to be further explored. This project is set up to directly address these issues.

Initial research showed that at present the number of returnee-prisoners in Montenegrin prisons amounts to 23% of the total prison population. The Montenegrin Institute for Execution of Criminal Sanctions calculated that over 72% of these are prisoners returned for the same offences (special returnees) and 27% are general returnees. Even though hard data is not available, all evidence indicates that a relatively large part of the prison population is detained for minor offences. These offenders generally pose less of a threat to society. These detainees, often detained for periods up to 12 months, could be given alternative sentences that would benefit both their rehabilitation and society as a whole. Such alternative sentences would reduce detention damage, increase social inclusion and offer offenders a possibility to pay their debts to society in a much more constructive way. Also, by diverting these offenders to community service, more means can be allocated towards prosecuting and detaining severe offenders who do pose a serious threat to society.

Our Aim

The project will contribute to further enhancing and mainstreaming conditional and alternative sanctions in the justice chain by strengthening the probation service itself, as well as by training prosecutors and judges to demand and impose more conditional and alternative sanctions. We expect that by making conditional sentences and community service functional and feasible, we can increase the amount of conditional sentences and community sentences imposed, which ought to have a positive effect on prison conditions.

Our project will focus on capacity enhancement to make probation and alternative sanctions work in Montenegro. This connects well to the preparatory steps formulated and undertaken by the Montenegrin authorities and the EU member state experts that are involved in the current IPA Twinning Project Support to Penitentiary Reform in Montenegro, which will run until July 2014. Our project will build on the results of the Twinning project, by on the one hand professionalising in-prison resocialisation trainings and rehabilitation activities, and on the other hand enabling probation officers to supervise imposed probation conditions and execute imposed community services.

Furthermore, a professional media and communication strategy will be further developed and operationalised (a basic strategy is being developed in the Twinning project). When more alternative sanctions are being demanded by the prosecution and imposed by judges, the need for an accompanying communication strategy is most urgent. The strategy will highlight both the strengthening of the probation service as well as the role of other actors (such as the penitentiary workers). The subsequent campaign will highlight the benefits and advantages of community work by conditionally and alternatively sanctioned offenders.

Finally, the actors involved must be able to cooperate and communicate adequately among themselves. The project pays special attention to enhancing this cooperation (for example between penitentiary workers and probation workers).

Project Implementation

Funder: Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Matra CoPROL)

Partners: CILC (The Netherlands), Dutch Probation Service (The Netherlands)

Project period: January 1, 2014 – June 30, 2017

Budget: € 807.000