Round Table on Conditional Sentencing and Conditional Release for Child Offenders in Georgia
TBILISI. 23 July. 2009 –Round-table discussing Conditional Sentencing and Conditional Release for Child Offenders in Georgia is being held today in Tbilisi. The round-table is led by the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Aid in Georgia and is facilitated by Mr. Jaape Doek, Professor of Law, Vrije University of Amsterdam, and Former Chairman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The event is organized by UNICEF with the financial support of the European Union, within the framework of the EU-funded project “Reform Options for the Penitentiary and Probation Systems for Convicted Child Offenders in Georgia’.
The round-table is the first in a series of discussion meetings with key partners in the justice system as well as in civil society to explore possibilities of expending the range of services and options available for juvenile offenders.
Despite a considerable progress in terms of securing political support for the creation of a functional juvenile justice system that is child centred and focuses on rehabilitation rather than punitive measure, many challenges are still in place: services for juvenile offenders are few and mostly supported by civil society and heavily relies on donor funding, alternatives and diversion are under-developed and the probation service has a very few specialized staff trained on juvenile justice administration.
Conditional sentencing of juvenile offenders is one of the alternative measures stipulated by the legislation that is not widely in use in Georgia. Judges often express reluctance to impose non-custodial sentences due to lack of alternatives available to them.
The round-table aims at discussing the challenges and opportunities existing around Conditional Sentencing and Conditional Release for child offenders to initiate a broader policy dialogue on the issue, to learn international experience about implementing conditional sentencing in other countries and to discuss a possibility of creating a special working group for assessing and processing applications by juveniles in custody for early conditional release. The working group is to be supported, technically and financially by UNICEF.
Reform of the juvenile justice system in Georgia is one of the key priorities of UNICEF, the Government of Georgia and EC. The reform envisages introduction of a reintegration-focused penitentiary and probation systems and also aims at ensuring that children are not criminalized unnecessarily, there are programmes of prevention and diversion, and personnel dealing with juveniles are adequately trained.
The EU supported project will establish and prioritize such programmes within the penitentiary and probation facilities such as vocational trainings, sport activities, constructive leisure time, social skill training, legal and psycho-social support, life skills education.
Within the penitentiary system the project will target cconvicted boys in Avchala Juvenile Detention Centre and convicted girls in Prison #5. The child probationers who are conditionally released from detention will be involved in existing educational and sport programmes.
The project also envisages training of penitentiary staff and probation officers as well as promoting the necessary policy and legislative amendments.