Steve Pitts and Leo Tigges are well-known to the CEP! Steve is CEP’s international Ambassador, Leo a former Secretary General. Both are honorary CEP members. Informed by international probation work pre and post “official” retirement, they report on a major project to understand promising practices in probation capacity building. Their project took place against the background of remarkable expansion in Europe in probation provision in the past 20-25 years. Their research, greatly assisted by five detailed case studies (Albania, Georgia, Latvia, Poland and Romania), meetings with international bodies, and literature review, supported by an academic panel, shows a rich and diverse picture of how probation work in Europe is delivered and organised. Also clear is just how different the journeys of new jurisdictions have been in their development.
Their research demonstrates how probation development is influenced by a powerful and complex interplay between national and justice system context on the one hand (history, economy, penal traditions, standing of justice professionals, and so on) and international influences on the other – most especially standard setting by the Council of Europe, the EU accession process and bi and multi-lateral funding by the European Commission and other donors, professional international organisations (notably the CEP!), academic insight and research; understanding and working with these contexts is vital. Steve and Leo have analysed probation development by distinguishing several elements including the Who of probation (who were/are involved?), the Why (reasons to start probation work) and the What and How (what tasks were given priority and how were those tasks enabled)? Their full research report will be published shortly. In the meantime, this summary provides a preview!
As well as the fundamental importance of national and international context, the research offers insights into effective practices in building probation capacity. Factors include building networks, managing risks, flexibility, and significance of the professional approach and skills (technical and relational) of international experts able to combine knowledge exchange and inspiration – with the beneficiary in the “driving seat” – and assistance in developing “hard” products, tailored to need, such as strategy and implementation planning, communication plans, assessment systems, methodologies, training, and on occasion infrastructure support.
The authors, aware of ongoing need and effort to develop probation provision in many areas of the world, suggest 10 probation capacity building “success factors”. They also propose a model or “language” of capacity building, based on “Probation Domains and Enablers” – to support probation development globally. As well as success factors they identify potential risks informed by European experience, such as “net-widening”. They conclude with 5 recommendations for the international community embracing the role of supra-national organisations, professional associations and others with an interest in helping to ensure probation work achieves its full potential.
Following publication of the full report, Steve and Leo plan to meet with international organisations including the European Commission, Council of Europe, UNODC, and of course CEP, to discuss the outcomes and recommendations.