30 May 2022
From 24 to 27 May, 56 staff members of the Kosovo Correctional Service (KCS) underwent training in the implementation of sentence plans for prisoners by two Finnish correctional experts during a workshop organized by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX). Sentence plans describe the activities that each prisoner should complete while serving his/her sentence. Based on an assessment of the prisoner’s needs and associated risks the plans are developed in close cooperation with prisoners. An essential tool to promote prisoners’ rehabilitation, these plans help prevent recidivism, and support the prisoners’ successful reintegration into their local community, which is essential for the protection of citizens.
The Head of the pilot project of Prisoner Assessment and Classification Unit (PACU), Jaha Zaneli, explained the current functioning of the sentence planning process at KCS, pointing out the need to actively and continuously engage the prisoners in their personal journey towards change. He also highlighted the importance of having social workers, correctional officers, health workers and psychologists involved throughout this process.
Discussing the importance of sentence plans, the Chief of EULEX’s Correctional Unit, Ritva Vahakoski, said: “It enables the process of a prisoner’s rehabilitation: the ultimate goal of any prison sentence. Experience has shown that prisoners who follow tailored sentence plans are given a better employment opportunity and become law-abiding citizens after their release.” Vahakoski highlighted that EULEX looks forward to PACU become fully operational once the new Law on Execution of Criminal Sanctions is voted by the Kosovo Parliament.
During the workshop, the participants learned more about the well-functioning assessment procedure of the Finnish correctional service and EU standards in this field, the design of appropriate activities that can be integrated into sentence plans, the need for evaluation and revision of sentence plans throughout the sentence, as well as the need to integrate safety and security measures necessary to make the imprisonment time safe for the prisoners and the others.
Naime Redenica Bellaqa, trainee and Social Worker at the Pristina Detention Center, expressed confidence that this training will significantly help her in sentence planning: “Based on my personal experience sentence planning is very important because it identifies the concrete needs of the prisoners allowing us to intervene in the areas that are most needed and facilitating their reintegration into society. A very concrete example are the cases where we have helped prisoners become self-aware of the crime they have committed: a key step towards their rehabilitation.”
EULEX is actively assisting KCS in developing sentence planning procedures. In May 2017, the Mission organized a training for 20 KCS officers on how to assess and categorize prisoners. In 2018, the KCS initiated the PACU pilot project, with the support of EULEX. In October 2019, EULEX organized a study visit to Finland aimed at familiarizing KCS officers with the process of conducting risk and need assessments and creating sentence plans.