Mr Palm's remarks on the workshop on “Restorative Justice and Mediation for Juveniles in the Probation Service” - Possibilities, challenges and perspectives - on 19 July 2011
Last December we were all together – the ministry of justice, probation services, NGOs, international organisations - in an event organised by the probation service and Center for Integrated legal Practices and Services (CILPS) to discuss progress in the implementation of community service orders for juveniles in Albania.
Today we are here to share experience on another important component of the work of probation, on the restorative justice and mediation for juveniles.
We from UNICEF, together with the EU and Sida are proud to have been associated with both the Community Service Orders (CSO) and Victim-Offender Mediation (VOM) for juveniles when they were piloted. We have witnessed how both programmes are becoming part of the system. We have seen how the role of NGOs in providing quality services is institutionalised.
Last year, I shared the experience of Erjon, the first juvenile to serve a CSO. As we speak, CSOs are expanding to seven districts. Last year almost 160 cases were treated. I understand that this year there is even a greater number. CSOs are proving to be viable alternative in Albania.
With the Albanian Foundation for Conflict Resolution (AFCR), UNICEF has supported VOM for several years. 240-280 cases are resolved every year. But very few cases are referred by the prosecutor and probation. Today, so I hear, 28 cases have been referred by the probation. This is a very good start. Let’s use the opportunity today to discuss how we together can increase the proportion of cases resolved through VOM. VOM contributes to a decrease in the number of juveniles in the penitentiary and reduces the risk for juveniles to become recidivist of crime.
I would like to reiterate again today – as I did in December last year - that the work of the probationer is about the care and compassion, that most of the juveniles that are referred to have never experienced in their life. Your work not only help them reconnect with the society but can become a turning point for their life. In this sense your job is not only a profession but is also a mission.
Restorative justice has many benefits, not only for juveniles but for the peace and stability in the community. It brings great advantages in the economy of justice and avoidance of long and costly processes, and prevention of escalation of conflict. Diversion remains the preferred solution for juveniles in conflict with the law.
I like to reiterate today that as we speak, almost 70% of juveniles spent their court sentence awaiting trial. This has started to change, but very slowly. Use of diversion, alternatives to detention, involvement of probation and improved criteria for application of security measures can change this situation more rapidly.
Let me comment on the sustainability of the work done by probation and NGOs. Probation services are now in place for almost two years. They have the challenges of growth and expansion throughout Albania. Progress is made but must not be limited to financing personnel in the districts. There need to be resources to fund the programmes itself. The partnership envisaged with the NGOs in provision of services should include the funding of the services and not rely only on the funding coming from donors.
UNICEF is looking forward to the conclusion of this workshop. We like to see how restorative justice and mediation practices can provide better responses, especially from the victim’s perspective. Let me mention also the progress in developing a Justice for Children Strategy; many of you are indeed involved. UNICEF is helping with some technical assistance. Presently, comments on the first draft are reviewed by a working group and soon become public for more consultations. The strategy is looking for the first time not only to children in conflict with the law, but also to witnesses and victims of crime.