CEP is very proud of its network of 120 members throughout Europe. Together they represent a unique network of expertise about positive ways of working with offenders in the community. In this issue of the newsletter, the relatively young probation service of Albania tells us about their, work, achievements, developments, challenges and future plans. We give the floor to Mr. Ilir QAFA, Director General of the
Albanian Probation Service.
“Let me first brief you shortly on what the Albanian Probation is and does; it is a governmental institution under the Ministry of Justice. Its purpose is to provide community safety by means of offender reintegration into society. It fulfills this purpose by assessing offender risks and needs and consequently providing treatment and meaningful interventions to offenders. We work with all groups of offenders such as juveniles, young adults and adults.
It works parallel to the prison service and provides assistance to the courts and the prosecution authority by providing assessment reports during all judicial stages. It provides supervision for offenders on probation, parole/conditional release and community service. Most recently, it is the authority for providing Electronic Monitoring Supervision for a range of offenders including but not limited to those sentenced with alternatives to imprisonment.”
“Our probation service is a young one. It launched on 2009 based on the strong need for implementation of alternatives to detention. The Albanian government was assisted in this process by many international organizations which helped with expertise and various resources. Since its beginnings the probation service quickly started to attract attention from the government and other institutions. We had 4 local offices and a staff of 65 to cover all Albanian judicial territory. Since 2014, we have achieved to distribute our service in all judicial districts of Albania by gradually increasing the number of local offices from 4 to 22 associated with an increase in staff that reached 134 employees.
The number of cases under the care of the probation has also constantly grown. Our Probation Service has under its supervision almost double the number of offenders compared to the number of offenders placed in detention centers and prisons. This growth was part of establishment of good cooperation with other institutions involved in the justice system and also with other local and non-profit partners. During this time we have also been doing our best to establish our methodology of work, with good results I might add. The probation officer working with offenders has all the up to date instruments needed to perform assessment and treatment. We have developed separate assessment instruments for juveniles and adults which are based upon Risk-Need-Responsivity principles in working with offenders.
We have also built a good information infrastructure. Public can access the probation’s website and be informed. We have also published in cooperation with the OSCE Presence in Albania, a yearly probation bulletin which aims to inform the public with up to date information regarding our service activity. We are also proud to be a member of CEP which provides to us a wider context of exchanging experiences and best practices with other probation services across Europe.”
“The justice system in Albania is undergoing through reform. The probation service will also be a part of this reform. All justice system is expected to have a new and improved legislative framework which will help raise institutional cooperation. This reform is important because it will serve to re-introduce and redefine purpose, functions and responsibility for each actor in order to provide a more effective justice.”
Challenges and future plans
“During these 6 years we have achieved to build the infrastructure of work and methodology, but we are also facing a few challenges, some of which might be specific to our probation service and some might be challenges that other probation services across Europe are also dealing with.
We are looking to continue raising awareness in regards to alternative sentences and community safety. In this regard we are planning to conduct a thorough analysis of the institution’s activity during these 6 years. This will help us to identify achievements and also problematic areas which will enable us to approach future plans objectively and systematically. We are planning on building a statistical and IT infrastructure which will improve overall efficacy and provide a more stable insight into the work and performance of the probation service.
Our plans also include widening our cooperation network and enriching our specialized services provided by specialized institutions or non-profit organizations with meaningful treatment programs and interventions for offenders struggling with reintegration into society.
Other challenges and future plans include establishing a quality driven probation service, continuous staff training and developing a probation with a social work profile. These aspects will contribute to the main objective of maintaining a sustainable probation service that will serve its mission and purpose on a par with the communities’ expectations and international best practices and standards.”