The World Congress on Probation was organised by CEP and English probation organisations to receive people from all over the globe to discuss probation and related topics. The announcement for the Congress travelled far and delegates from 55 jurisdictions attended the Congress in London, UK, from 8-10 October 2013. As a result, the Congress was a truly global platform for the exchange of practice and knowledge. A number of delegates responded to questions about their motivation to register and their opinion on the Congress: ‘Very informative’, said Teresa Echenique from the Cayman Islands, ‘an opportunity to network’, said Neven Ricijas from Croatia.
The programme of the Congress was largely based on the submissions from the international array of the delegates, and was announced via the dedicated website. Teresa Echenique, who is Director of Community Rehabilitation Department of the Cayman Islands: ‘I visited the website, which was very useful, and saw that the programme provided a good overview of various challenges that probation faces. This persuaded me to join the Congress. I enjoyed the visit with the London Probation Trust on the first day because they showed how they work with women, an aspect that is under-exposed in our probation service.’
As a researcher in Croatia, Neven Ricijas’ aim was to network: ‘My personal interest are western countries, and in particular examples of evidence based practices. I gained creative inspiration to continue my research. New ideas about my research on juvenile probation certainly ‘clicked’ in my head.’
Highly valued sessions
Ruenvadee Suwanmongkol is Director General of Probation, she and her colleagues from Thailand were particularly interested to see how European and American countries approach probation. ‘To me, the session on Courts and the Judiciary, as well as the Public Safety and Risk Assessment sessions were of interest. I saw good examples of two way learning in these sessions.’
A popular part of the programme was the plenary session Desistance Research and ‘Evidence-based’ Probation, the majority of the respondents indicated that they found the presentation the most interesting part. Mimi Agnevald Haugen, Senior Advisor to the Swedish Prison and Probation Service: ‘I liked the presentation by Farrall, Maruna and McNeill because it was research oriented and this approach helps me in my work.’ Clement Okech, Assistant Director of the Kenyan Probation Service, also learned from the session: ‘The good thing is that the desistance research focuses on the positives, why people do not commit a crime. The literature on this topic is unknown and it was good to hear more about it.’ The three speakers talked about the ritualisation of enforcement and compliance where a formal discharge by the courts contributes to a meaningful rehabilitation. Also from Kenya and coordinator of community services, Lawrence Mugambi found the desistance session ‘very enlightening’. He hopes to bring back this understanding and discuss it with his colleagues.
Knowledge to bring back
Apart from inspiration and enthusiasm to bring back home, the delegates have learned new things that they intend to apply in their work. Ms. Agnevald Haugen mentioned one aspect: ‘In Sweden we work together with NGO’s and organisations for ex-convicts, but here at the Congress I learned more about service user engagement. It is a way of working that is new to us and I hope we can implement it in a more structured way.’
Goh Mui Leng attended the Congress with a delegation from Singapore. She is a psychologist as was hoping to become familiar with topics and people outside the sphere of psychology. ‘The plenary session on desistance, as well as Ioan Durnescu’s session Effectiveness of One to One supervision grabbed my attention. I hope to bring back the input and literature about desistance, but also the examples of practices within a secure setting for juveniles that I picked up in other sessions.’
The plenary and parallel sessions were grouped around long breaks, which provided the delegates the opportunity to meet in the central hall, the market place. Sponsors and partner organisations were present with information stands. One of the stands was run by APPA, the American Probation and Parole Association. The editor of APPA’s journal Perspectives, William Burrell, characterized the Congress as an event that focuses on the topic of probation, and managed to go deep. ‘The Congress was attended by delegates from ‘experienced’ countries such as the US and the UK, and by countries like Jordan, who only very recently started with probation. The diversity is wonderful but they have one thing in common; they want to do it right. That is what binds all of us together.’
The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre provided an environment with allure for the World Congress on Probation, because it was situated in the heart of London. The delegates provided feedback for future events, in particular the second World Congress to be held in the USA. The wish to have more time for breaks or questions is one that needs to be balanced by the conference planners. The committee with staff from CEP, the National Offender Management Service, the Probation Chiefs Association, London Probation Trust, and West Yorkshire Probation Trust looks back on a successful event with a world wide scope.