written by: Raluca Patricia IONETE, Dalina Florina HERPAI ZUBA, Sabrina Adriana DUȚU and translated by Corina Ioana CHAMBRE
Hello! We are Raluca, Dalina and Sabrina. We graduated from the same university, are the same age and were employed at the same time by the same probation service. Our enthusiasm and the fact that we face the same challenges is what connected us. The tasks at Arad Probation Service is the same as other Probation Services, and yet, our work days and cases aren’t the same.
My name is Raluca-Patricia Ionete and, at Arad Probation Service, besides being a probation officer, I deal with internal communication and the collaboration of our organisation with other institutions, in this case the City Hall from the county. Nevertheless, I have chosen to display a day in my life as a probation officer while dealing with an offender under supervision. I believe every one of us has something to learn from others and the relationship between a probation officer and a person under supervision is very important to both parties. What matters the most in this type of association is to feel the interconnection. What I mean by this is the active participation, not only the descriptive or technical side of it.
Homeless person and prejudice
It’s Monday, I’m stepping out in the hallway and I see a shy young man. I scheduled a meeting with a homeless person, but I didn’t expect he would be show up. I have to overcome my prejudice. The young man not only respected the date, but he was also on time. Because there are construction work going on in the building, I invite the young man to sit on a bench next to me. While talking to him I noticed how important body language and words are. He was abandoned as a child, finished only a few classes and then he tried to make a living for himself but was conned by the employer, resulting in no payment. Everywhere he went he came upon closed doors. As the discussion progressed, I started to observe a long and painful vicious circle and because of that, I figured out that in this moment, the role of the probation officer is extremely important. A nice and thoughtful conversation brought the light on his face, even if just for a few minutes. He confessed to me that not even one person with an institutional background listened to him as I did. Even going as far as, in a situation where a person gave him a pen to write, the officer later backed up and threw the pen in the trash. I did my best in order to make him understand that I had no problem in sharing a pen with him. As a result, I found out he likes to write, he wants to work and is on the look to reunite with his biological family. I supported him as early as that first meeting. A few months have passed from that time. Today, another start of the week, he informed me he was living at a friend’s house, he was working for everyone who demanded his work and that he reconnected with his father. I felt that, by my implications in his case, I managed to raise his self-esteem, and starting from this moment, he will take matters into his own hands in order to contribute to his social reintegration. In consequence, in my personal agenda. Today was a good day.
My name is Dalina-Florina Herpai-Zuba and, besides working as a probation officer, I’m responsible of a few delegations of competence. Such as: international procedures regarding foreign citizens and the relation with the institutions that support the probation office in this course of action (translators, the territorial immigration service, border police, public shelters for immigrants). As we are a border county, annually, between 80 to 100 people of different citizenships (e.g. Bulgarian, Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi, Hungarian, Latvian, German, Italian) pass the border. These are the people that committed felonies in Arad County and were convicted by the court. As a result, I found out a lot of things that were unknown to me prior to this, such as the existence of “Kosovar” citizenship, the “farsi” language or the existence of a region in Iraq called “Sulleymania”.
It is Tuesday morning. Due to anxiety I wake up early. Today, I’m having an introductory meeting with a foreign of Turkish origins. I have reread the international procedure and even with all my preparation. And I am aware the meeting will proceed differently than I have imagined. Of course, we are talking about human interaction. This is always spontaneous, surprising and alive. This is one of the reasons I’ve wanted to become a probation officer. The clock ticks and it’s 7:20 am. It’s time to leave in order to get to work by 8 o’clock. I check the documents in my file and I reread verdict from the court. A bunch of questions are popping up in my head, but I know I’ll have to wait until 10 am when the meeting will take place.
It is 10 o’clock. The person under supervision seems a bit restless. The meeting starts, luckily, intermediated by the translator. I inform the person about the possibility of opting for an international transfer to Turkey, his country of origins (based on the principle of reciprocity promoted by Law no. 302/2004, not based on Framework Decision JAI 947/2008). But he initially expressed his preference of remaining in the supervision of the Arad Probation Service (Romania). He tells us that 7 years ago (2015), he committed the felony of illegally crossing the Romanian border in order to get to Germany. The trial was judged in his absence and the court initially convicted him to prison. Because of his absence he couldn’t agree to community service. After this, the European Arrest Warrant followed without his knowledge. For 6 years (2015-2021), the man lived with his wife (German citizen) in the Federal Republic of Germany and is father of two (minor) children. In the year 2021, he wants to go back to Turkey to see his relatives. The Hungarian police stopped and arrested immediately. He was later on transferred to Romania, in order to carry out his prison sentence. After this, the case underwent a retrial. At this point, the Romanian court convicted him to a sentence under supervision in the community and trusted the Arad Probation Service with the supervision. Actively listening to this man’s story, a better solution regarding his social reintegration process comes to my mind: transferring his probation to the Federal Republic of Germany. I inform him with the possibility of transferring to Germany, the state of residence. His response is “Yes”.
The hard work just now starts for me as a probation officer. I prepare the international transfer documents: verbal information document, the statement of the person’s will, the justified documents of his residence in Germany, the proposal form for initiating the transfer filed to the Romanian court, issuing the European Certificate of Recognition. And then it was time for the excruciating wait for the approval of the German authorities. A lot of paperwork, but I’m doing everything with the conviction that if he can go back to Germany it will increase his chances of social reintegration. I am finishing my day with the conclusion: “My hardship ensures the good of the person and the international transfer will contribute to his social reintegration.” It was a difficult day, but at the end, I’m feeling relieved and my professional conscience satisfied. I smile to myself in the office mirror as I make my way back home.
My name is Sabrina-Adriana Duţu and besides being a probation officer, I’m the person responsible for the public relations regarding Arad Probation Service and the coordinator for the inter-institutional relations between probation and penitentiary. One day a week, I participate to the Committee of Conditional Discharge held by Arad Penitentiary. I represent the Probation Service in which I operate in. What I’m referring to is the Committee of Parole from the penitentiary (for adults) and the Committee of Parole from an educational centre/detention centre (designed for minors). This work day is my favourite day, since I’ve always been drawn to the criminal law branch. I’ve wanted to know the stories of the people sentenced to prison, to listen and understand their view of life inside a penitentiary, while also assessing if the person is ready or not to be released outside.
From defendant to convicted felon
I believe the committee’s procedure resembles to the procedure of other states, but I want to share my experience. On one of these Tuesdays, on engaging with a certain person deprived of liberty. I want to share a case that had an emotional impact on me, a case that stuck with me to this day. What I’m referring to is a case of a woman that prior to becoming a “defendant” and later on a “convicted felon”, she was repeatedly subjected to verbal and physical abuse from her husband. She`d been beaten, burned with a hot iron and threatened by her spouse. On one of these occasions, her husband attacked her with a sharp knife, and as a result she defended herself, managing to twist his arm and pierce his abdomen with the blade. Because of this desperate act, the string of aggression from her partner stopped, the man died and the woman was convicted by court with an imprisonment of 6 years and 8 months.
Why this particular story had an impact on me? As a result of this case, I managed to see with my own eyes, how the statistics and the scientific research I had access to when I was in university, were confirmed by the reality of our days: The female criminality is lower than the criminality of men, for example, the penitentiary population in Arad Penitentiary is predominantly male, 700 men and 50 women, statistics that is lower than 10 % for the females. But the severity of the crimes committed by women is greater than the ones committed by males. As an example, the majority of women at Arad State Penitentiary commit crimes such as murder, in contrary with the male population that is mainly incarcerated for other felonies besides murder. The statistics are produced by the reality and the one I have perceived at the Penitentiary every Tuesday can attest to it.
On that particular day, I left the penitentiary having the face and story of that woman stuck in my brain. I managed to remove her from a formal statistic. It was like watching her life as a movie, enduring the endless abuse of her husband, defending herself or accepting it, demanding help or having no idea where to find it, taking the abuse and losing her self-esteem day by day, her hope, desires, will power. I re-watched the trauma behind the crime she has committed. And then I replayed in my head her face, in front of the Committee of Parole with the inabilities of her past and the suffering of the 5-6 years of incarceration. But at the same time, I saw hope for her, she will see her children after her release. It was one of those days in which as soon as I left the penitentiary and came back to my office, I had to open the window, look at the sky and inhale the fresh air. I have the belief that my positive notice given to that woman was the correct one, the start of her new life. One way ticket to freedom!
Arad Probation Service
We are part of a group of 11 new probation officers, employed at Arad Probation Service in August 2021. As of today (April 2022), we have just scratched the surface of 7 months of activity. The first experimental centre of probation in Romania was instated in Arad, in the 18th of April 1997. We feel like we are a part of this evolution, even if we didn’t see it from the start. Because, the group we joined gave us all of the professional experience it had, as if we sensed it from the start and is now an integral part of our being. Because of this, every day feels, therefore, like a milestone. Even the days described by us are in a way, the milestones of some of our personal and professional experiences. Qs probation officers, but also milestones and as a team.
Thanks to our colleague Corina Chambre who translated this paper for you.