In Europe, probation services are professionalising and education is distinct component of this development. The project ‘Criminal Justice Social Work’ (CJSW) is a response to the need for teaching materials for probation workers. The Latvian Probation Service is a partner in the project, together with a number of European partners. Anvars Zavackis, senior researcher of its Training & Research Unit, comments on the motivation for Latvia to participate.
Working on education
The kick-off meeting of the CJSW project took place on the 9-10 February in Den Bosch, The Netherlands. At this meeting, the partners met for the first time in the project setting. Anvars Zavackis of the Probation Service and Aija Zobena of the University of Latvia represented their country at the meeting. “I am enthusiastic about our participation,” says Anvars Zavackis. “The demand for educational material is great.” The Probation Service has about 350 probation officers and turnover rate is quite high. “About 14-20% of the officers changes every year. In 2010 only 48 of the probation workers had a background in social work and we would like to increase this number. The others usually had an education in law (90 persons) or pedagogy (100 persons).”
Cooperation with the University of Latvia
To work together on the CJSW project with the University of Latvia proves to be an excellent opportunity for the Probation Service. “We had been in touch with the University but these initiatives stranded around 2006. Other developments in the Service proved to be more urgent at the time,” continues Anvars Zavackis. “The CJSW project provides us, however, an opportunity to cooperate again. Students of the University will be able to choose an education in social work with a specialisation, instead of a short on-the-job course for workers. We will develop teaching modules and test & try them. In this process we will help each other in a practical way, and learn from the other partners in the CJSW project.”
Networking in Europe
Developments in Europe make cooperation with European partners a logical step. The Probation Rules and greater mobility requires the sector of probation to connect. For Latvia, however, the cooperation is a relatively new development. “Strangely enough, in the beginning Canada was our example.. Our officers visited Canada and the Canadian system was a model for our Probation Service programmes. It was only in 2011 that a European programme was introduced: A UK sex offender treatment programme. I would like to see that the development of the past 3-4 years is continued and I know it will be an important topic for the Service in the upcoming 5 years.”
Work in probation is challenging, particularly in the context of the European laws. “The CJSW project will offer a practical solution by providing educational material of high quality,” hopes Anvars Zavackis. “This is what we need in Europe.”
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
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