JureviciusOne of CEP’s newest Board members is Imants Jurevicius, he leads a project of the Latvian government that explores alternatives to prison. The project was launched in June 2013 and CEP agreed to become a project partner. The full title is: “Increasing the Application of Alternatives to Imprisonment (Including Possible Pilot Project on Electronic Surveillance)”. Imants Jurevicius: ‘In Latvia the State Probation Service is relatively young, we are making a continuous effort to expand on our work programme. The current project, which is funded by the so called Norway Grants, builds upon existing practices for probation and prison staff, introducing new tasks and goals.’

In European countries, the use of Electronic Monitoring (EM) has become an accepted measure as an alternative or an addition to a prison sentence. ‘We recognized that EM is a solution that contributes to better rehabilitation and lower number of prisoners,’ explains Imants Jurevicius. ‘In Latvia, however, EM is not yet an accepted as a full alternative. In our project, we want to see if we can use EM in a ‘back door model’, after serving a prison sentence. The public opinion still strongly favours imprisonment so it is a gradual start.’ The change of attitude concerns the general public, prison staff as well as probation workers.

Young offenders
The project encompasses a number of possible alternatives. ‘Apart from EM,’ continues Imants Jurevicius, ‘the project is working on a range of practices that promote the desistance from crime. One example is the special assessment tool for young offenders. Probation officers have indicated that they need more tools such as special interventions and for this reason we are introducing new thinking into the programme, to increase their tool set.’

Other examples of results that the project hopes to achieve are a range in training programmes in:
– motivational interviewing
– working with sex offenders
– general enhancement of prison and probation officer’s skills
– dealing with mental health issues
– dealing with the changes in policy, aimed at managers

‘In other words,’ says Imants Jurevicius, ‘I hope that more alternatives to prison will be implemented, leading to both lower crime rates and less inmates in prison. The people that do enter the justice system, will receive better assistance for their rehabilitation, and staff will be better trained in doing their job.’

The biggest partner is the Norwegian Correctional Service, while the Norwegian government is the largest financial contributor. Through the Norway Grants and EEA Grants, Norway contributes to reducing social and economic disparities and to strengthening bilateral relations with European countries. This principle is applied in the Latvian project, which will be running until April 2016. Imants Jurevicius: ‘Our relationship with the Norwegian Correctional Service goes back to the 1997 Nordic Prison project, then funded by the European Council. Since then we have built a strong relationship. The Norwegians have extensive experience with EM, one of our principle learning points.’

CEP will assist the Latvian project in several different ways, particularly in making connections with experts and specific training from other countries. ‘We want to incorporate as much knowledge as possible and CEP can help us to share our experience with the other European countries,’ explains Imants Jurevicius. ‘I expect that CEP takes part in activities, for example in the organisation of events. I believe that it is very important that we pass on what we learn.’

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