Training in Kazakhstan on prisoner rehabilitation
On 18 April 2012, a training session was held by PRI, with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Kazakhstan, on the theme of Rehabilitation of prisoners and protection of their human rights by mutual efforts of civil society and the state. The one-day event was attended by around 30 representatives of local municipalities (Akimats), government ministries and agencies and civil society. It was divided into three sessions, each led by an international expert.
The first training session was led by Martin Seddon from the UK, an expert in the field of penal reform in transit and developing countries. In his work as a consultant for the Council of Europe and other international organisations, he has implemented more than 20 projects in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. In the first session, entitled Principles of work with persons who have broken the law: practical methods, he gave an overview of practical services to reduce reoffending, based on experience in European countries. These included: shorter sentences, a ‘release plan’, family contact, pre-release training and practical skills training, as well as a range of measures to be implemented after release as alternative methods of punishment. He also commented on the importance of prison design and friendly relations between guards and prisoners, and showed a short video of visitor facilities at a high-security prison in the UK. Many questions were asked by participants about these practical measures, especially about information leaflets distributed to prisoners before release, prison visitor centres and supportive accommodation run by NGOs for ex-prisoners.
The second session was led by Oleg Dymaretskii from Ukraine, a trainer and expert in programmes of preparation for release and social adaptation. He spoke about the work of the charitable organisation Svitlo Nadii (“Light of hope”) and their rehabilitation programme, The future can be changed for prisoners in the city of Poltava, Ukraine. He underlined the importance of a rehabilitation programme, in particular concerning family relations, work and skills, housing, ethics and morals and drug abuse. Pictures were shown of the programme in action, including prisoners learning how to mend a roof alongside professional roofers and a training session for prisoners. He also emphasised the problem of missing documents among newly-released prisoners, and the importance of assistance to them in obtaining a passport and other necessary documents.
The third session was led by Elena Gordeeva, an expert of the Centre for Promotion of Reform of Criminal Justice in Russia. She spoke about rehabilitation work with juvenile prisoners, in particular the programme carried out by her centre in various juvenile prisons since 2004. The programme involves visits to juvenile prisons, some of which are thousands of kilometres from Moscow, around four times each year in order to conduct social work with the juvenile inmates. They collect information from the inmates about their parents in order to facilitate contact with families and run activities such as art workshops and competitions for the children. The organisation also provides material support to children in need after their release.
The day concluded with a discussion session, at which there was much lively discussion about the role of NGOs in rehabilitation work and the difficulties of implementing probation and rehabilitation programmes at regional level. In answer to a question, Martin Seddon noted that 10% of the budget of probation centres in the UK is given to NGOs. He also promised to send an example of a leaflet made in Russia to be distributed to prisoners to help them after release. The issue that prisoners often do not want to receive assistance because they do not want to use their status and feel stigmatised was discussed. It was also noted that there is a lack of coordination between different state bodies, and that the Coordination Council works in a very formal way. Participants called for education in prisons to be reviewed and reformed, criminal records (sudimost) to be cancelled, an analysis of the current situation in the prisons to be done and state public order to be given to re-socialisation work.
Certificates were presented to all participants and thanks given to the three international experts. The training was carried out successfully, with many participants commenting very favourably on the usefulness of the three sessions.