Like Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey before it, Croatia is in the early stages of establishing a national Probation Service. The legislative framework is now in place; the current stage of development involves managing the delicate balance between setting up the infrastructure of staff, offices, desks, phone lines, databases and transport on the one hand, and gradually expanding demand for probation work on the other.
Some 70 new staff have been recruited, planned to rise to 110 before the end of the year. There is an office in each major population centre in the country. The early caseload is dominated by domestic abuse cases and community service, but this is expected to change as Conditional Early Release (Parole) and Pre-Sentence Report writing come on stream.
The new staff bring with them a rich mix of previous experience, but those who have previously managed convicted adult offenders in the community, subject to a judicial order of some kind, are still in the minority.
Training for the new staff is part of an EU-supported twinning project, led by the UK and involving the Czech Republic. The first wave of all-staff training, in 2011, focused on the practical tasks of report writing and undertaking assessments, and completing a structured assessment document. Much of the training for 2012 also has a similarly practical focus.
Training developers Jo Chilvers and Tony Grapes (UK) were given the brief for ‘Case Management, National Standards, Compliance and Recording’ – units 4 and 5 of the programme. They quickly concluded that much of the practical work which would normally fall under the heading of ‘case management’ had already been covered by other units. There followed a few moments of panic in an apartment in Zagreb!
They decided to develop 2 modules which were more abstract and theoretical in approach. Module 2 was to help new staff in the probation service in Croatia to “find their place” in the international community of probation. This was to be in time – in terms of the development of probation from its roots – and space – in terms of where probation in Croatia stands in relation to different parts of Europe, and the world. Module 3 would provide staff with a set of frameworks into which they could fit their other training and ongoing experience……like providing the lid for a jig-saw puzzle. As Jo noted “a sense of relativity is as important as training to do the job; if you always think that some more developed jurisdiction – from Sweden to New Zealand – has solved all of the problems and you haven’t, then you’ll always feel frustrated and inadequate; that’s not helpful.”
Not surprisingly, given their role in the DOMICE Project, the developers drew much of the material from that project.
“There were some concerns about the training before its first delivery as many of the theoretical terms have no direct equivalent in the Croatian language and required careful translation and interpretation “, said Julie Masters, Resident Twinning Advisor to the Croatian Project. “These were more abstract and conceptual training modules than a number of the others we have developed.”
The one-week event (2 modules) was run twice in February 2012, by UK trainers Alison Trenery and Tony Grapes. The images show course members engaged in a Body Sculpture exercise to illustrate the historical impact of different criminological theories upon probation practice. You should be able to see Differential Opportunity Theory being played out in outdoor pursuits activity for young offenders, and an appeal for spiritual absolution associated with Classical Criminology.
Both events were extremely well received. Participants of all grades were thoroughly and enthusiastically engaged. Service Manager, Snjezana Maloic said, “I was delighted to participate in this stimulating training, designed specifically for the needs of the Croatian Probation Service. The review of historical developments in probation work and practice, as well as looking at contemporary approaches and effective practice in modern probation, helped make clear the links between ourselves and the rest of the European probation community. We are proud to belong to this wider professional community and look forward to working with our European colleagues in the future.” Experienced Social Worker Ivana Malic Hudina added, “for me, this was the best training on the programme so far.”
The range of tasks which form the work of a modern probation service, and the diversity and unpredictability of the caseload, mean that it will never be possible to write a manual telling case managers exactly what to do in every circumstance with every case. “They would spend more time reading the manual than doing the work”, reflected developer and trainer Tony Grapes. “Staff need sound knowledge, a set of tried and tested concepts and frameworks, and the intellectual agility to apply both to the challenges of practice. That’s what we have tried to provide”.
The training programme is ongoing throughout 2012; units 4 & 5 will run again in April.