Establishing rehabilitative centres for young people in conflict with the law in Georgia
KUTAISI. 24 September. 2009. The rehabilitative centre to support young probationers is being officially launched in Kutaisi, Georgia. The Kutaisi centre, set up in April this year, is one of the three piloted rehabilitation schemes established within the framework of UNICEF/Government of Georgia cooperation project supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This is a move which widens the alternative to custodial sentences for children in conflict with the law. Other centres were opened in Batumi and Rustavi in 2008.
The centre is being operated by the Penal Reform International in close cooperation and mutual understanding with the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia.
In practice the probation is the only alternative to prison for children convicted of a crime in Georgia. At the centres social workers cooperate with young probationers and their families in order to help them draw up individually tailored education and skills training plans which will help the children return to society where they can become active and positive members.
Currently, on every day basis, 26 juveniles referred by the Probation Service to the project, are involved in the programme and 31 juveniles have already graduated it.
“UNICEF appreciates the progress achieved by the Government of Georgia in reforming the juvenile justice sphere.” – says Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Georgia. “We are very happy to see that all of our joint efforts on juvenile justice reform enable young people to learn, to grow and to develop skills which can help build alternatives to a life cycle of crime.” added Perks.
It is envisaged that the pilot rehabilitation programmes will lead to the development of strategies and frameworks to ensure that, where appropriate, young people are not prosecuted for minor and less serious offences and if prosecuted are given a non-custodial sentence.
“One of the priorities for PRI worldwide is the contribution to the development of modern practices in the area of Juvenile Justice. The removal of children from family and community networks, as well as from educational or vocational opportunities, can compound social and economic disadvantage and marginalisation. This is what we want to avoid by introduction of similar practices in Georgia in close collaboration Probation Service” stated Mr. Rait Kuuse, Regional Director of PRI.
The Local Coordination Councils are established in three sites of the project to monitor the referral process, the overall implementation of the project and address juvenile justice issues at the local level. The Councils in Batumi, Rustavi and Kutaisi are composed of representatives of the local probation bureaus, police, court, prosecutor’s office, educational resource centre, UNICEF and the Penal Reform International. The main focus of the Council is to support the rehabilitation processes of juvenile probationers, coordinate all efforts at local level and contribute to the improvement of the juvenile justice system.
The rehabilitative centres are part of an overall reform of the juvenile justice system aims at bringing it closer to international standards. The reform process is undertaken by the Government of Georgia in cooperation with The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the EU, the Penal Reform International (PRI) and UNICEF.