Interview with new CEP board member Joachim Tein
During the General Assembly in Croatia a new CEP Board got elected for the upcoming three years. In the coming weeks we will publish interviews with all newly-elected board members where they will share information on their professional background, how they would like to contribute, what challenges lie ahead and many more.
Can you shortly introduce yourself?
My name is Jo Tein, born 1958 in Hamburg, Germany. My professions are Social Work (Lutheran University of Applied Sciences Hamburg, 1984) and Theology (Christian Albrechts University Kiel, 2002). Currently I work for the Ministry of Justice of Land Schleswig-Holstein, Germany as „Head of the Executive Department for Victim Protection“ and as „Head of the Division for Probation Services“.
From the mid 1980ies until my engagement in public administration in 2014 I worked as a social worker, lecturer and as a social entrepreneur. I co-founded several profit and non-profit organizations in the field of support for poor, homeless, and delinquent people and later I became the executive director of the Schleswig-Holstein umbrella organization for NGOs in the field of probation and victim support as well as director of the Schleswig-Holstein foundation for offender support services.
I was an editor for the journal „Zeitschrift für Soziale Strafrechtspflege“ (2004 – 2014) and published several articles in books and journals in German (and some also in English and Russian) language. I managed and participated in several national and international projects in the European Union, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation and in Africa; topics: prison & probation, restorative justice, victim support and services for the homeless. I was a member of the Presidium of „DBH e.V.“, the German umbrella organisation for social work, criminal law and criminal policy from 2018 – 2022.
During the last 4 years, I was responsible for the draft of the „Schleswig-Holstein Act on Ambulant Reintegration of Offenders and on Victim Protection (ResOG SH)“ which was adopted by the Schleswig-Holstein Parliament in October 2021 and entered into force in July 2022.
I became a member of the CEP board in October 2022.
Why did you decide to run for the CEP Board?
I have been involved in international cooperation in the field of criminal justice for more than 20 years now. My personal experience with international cooperation has always been very fruitful. I worked together with many CEP members and also with CEP as a partner organization in several EU funded projects. In these projects, I learned a lot about the value of CEP as an international lobby for the interests of the idea and the further development of probation in Europe. Many outstanding advocates of a humane and rational criminal justice system have served as board members, secretary general, or staff at the CEP office. These people – or should I say colleagues, friends – and organizations contributed enormously to my own understanding of probation, of its challenges, its opportunities and its political relevance as well as to my personal perception of and strive for further development of the probation system at home in Germany.
I also know from my work in the administrative and political field, that umbrella organisations like CEP play an important role in innovation processes. CEP’s expertise, it’s public visibility and it’s democratic structure is very valuable for the preparation of political or administrative decisions on the international, the national and even on the regional and local level. The permanent discussion within CEP, conferences and workshops for experts as well as online or print publications make scientific literature and theoretical political discussions about probation come alive. This helps people on all levels of the probation system to find the best solutions for their challenges.
This is why my reaction was positive, when a colleague from the Federal Ministry of Justice in Berlin asked me last spring if I could imagine to run for a seat on the CEP board.
How would you like to contribute to the development of CEP in the upcoming three years and what impact do you hope to have on CEP?
Germany as a Federal Republic with 16 widely independent states (when it comes to delivering prison, probation, victim support and restorative justice services) in some respects can be seen as a small “European” Union within the EU. About 80 million people share one native language, English is widely spoken among younger Germans, but in most professions, you do not need a high level of foreign language skills. There is an extensive criminological debate in the German language that involves several universities. There are 16 jurisdictions, competing for the best solutions in criminal justice on the basis of federal law but with many (also legislative) competencies of the 16 federal states.
Professional experts in the probation system – usually social workers, psychologists or lawyers – are mainly educated in German language and to a large extent on the basis of the German scientific discussion. When it comes to innovation or cooperation, the other German states are easier to access (language, distance, framework) than other countries. In fact, there are manifold structures of formal and informal cooperation between the German states and, last but not least, also a nationwide umbrella organization in the field of probation (DBH, association for social work, criminal law and criminal policy) that in many respects reflects the structure, role and activities of CEP on a national level.
Knowing all this it is not really surprising, that – in relation to the size of the country – not very many German probation experts get involved in international discussions or cooperation. In everyday business international contacts are widely seen as a “nice to have” whereas the internal discussion among the German states is seen as a “must have”. In my experience, a common question before answering new challenges in German Ministries of Justice is: “What are the solutions in the other German states” and not: “What’s happening on the international level”.
This of course makes it difficult to meet the idea of a world that “…gather(s) together, discuss(es) common problems and find(s) shared solutions“
as the UN put it (About Us | United Nations). And the same applies to discussions on the level of the Council of Europe as well as of the EU. Neither do these discussions involve nor do they reach the practice of probation work in Germany to a large extent.
So I see a great part of my role on the CEP board in strengthening the communication of the German probation system with the international discussion. I will be happy to transport core topics from the international CEP debate to the Ministries of Justice but also to probation administrations and NGOs in the field of probation in Germany – and the other way around. I would also like to motivate more German experts to get involved in CEP activities. This of course should be seconded by an internal strive within CEP to find new ways in addressing language barriers and maybe also the question of formats of communication. The language issue might also be interesting for other countries with a large population and lacking English language skills among experts in probation – this would be something I’d like to discuss.
What are your main priorities/topics you would like to open while serving as the CEP Board member and how would you like to make use of your knowledge to the development of CEP?
As mentioned above, a core topic for me is the issue of making access to CEP discussions as easy as possible for probation experts on all levels. This relates to language skills as well as to topics and formats of events.
Apart from these mainly structural issues, I would like to stress the following 3 topics of probation work, well knowing that they are already part of the CEP discussion:
- Ultima ratio principle in criminal sentencing
The Tokyo Rules of the UN as well as the so called European Prison Rules of the CoE stress the idea, that imprisonment must be the last resort in criminal sanctioning (ultima ratio principle). It is therefore crucial to have highly developed probation services in every jurisdiction. CEP should encourage all initiatives that are aiming at this goal. My own knowledge – that I am happy to share – includes the development of the „Schleswig-Holstein Act on Ambulant Reintegration of Offenders and on Victim Protection (ResOG SH)“. This law is explicitly based on the international recommendations that are mentioned above.
- Inter-agency cooperation mainly between probation, prison, victim support and restorative justice
Probation as an alternative to custodial measures competes with the idea of imprisonment as a sensible answer to criminal offences. Probation also faces discussions about the moral need to put a stronger focus and also allocate relatively more resources into victim support instead of the support of offenders. In relation to the ideas of restorative justice, probation services may appear too paternalistic in many aspects of their tasks.
CEP should therefore regularly discuss conflicts as well as common goals with the other European umbrella organizations in the field. I am aware, that there is a good and long standing tradition within CEP of cooperation with EuroPris, Victim Support Europe and the European Forum for Restorative Justice. I might personally contribute especially to the discussion between probation and victim support, as I am responsible for both topics in my jurisdiction.
- Measurement of outcomes of probation work
In order to be even more successful in the political discussion about the role of probation in the criminal sanctioning system I am of the opinion that we must get better in defining the goals and in measuring the outcomes of probation work. In the context of the implementation of the ResOG SH (see above) we are working on a standardized system of measuring “success” of our probation services with scientific assistance. I would be happy to discuss this approach on the CEP level.
What are the challenges that lie ahead CEP in the future?
There are various challenges every day in the work of probation officers. In order to master these, experts with a high level of skills and professionalism who are strong and uncorrupt are needed. I would like to add that no matter how serious, at times heart-breaking and in extraordinary cases even dangerous their work is, a good sense of humour can help to stay in balance. CEP should promote all relevant skills and support probation officers and their clients in every possible way.
As an overarching challenge for CEP and for probation on the whole we should consider:
War and geopolitical changes in Europe, authoritarian states
According to Article II.2. of it’s statutes “… CEP’s objective is to promote and facilitate international cooperation concerning the proper use of sanctions and measures in the community“. I would like to understand this objective as a recommendation to support people and (civil society) organizations that promote humane and rational approaches in criminal justice according to the existing international agreements of the UN, the CoE (and the EU), also in countries with authoritarian governments that strengthen merely punitive criminal justice systems.
Should CEP take an active or rather passive role in this respect? What could be realistic options for actions? Are there countries that we must exclude from potential cooperation? How far can CEP go? And at which point does this idea overstrain the structures of CEP? I am far from having answers, but I feel a need to discuss this topic within CEP.