Alison Hannah, PRI’s Executive Director, reports from Kazakhstan where PRI’s Central Asia office held their first Prison Forum event last week to discuss probation and electronic monitoring.
The aim of the conference was to share experience and plans for the expansion of the probation service in Kazakhstan and the introduction of electronic monitoring for offenders. Over 200 people attended the conference which received wide media coverage.
Kazakhstan has made significant progress in reducing its high prison population and plans to reduce it still further by using more alternative sentences. To put it in context, in Kazakhstan 20% sentences are non-custodial, but in other countries, the reverse is the case. But Kazakhstan still has some way to go to reduce its prisoner ratio from the current 316 per 100,000 population.
The expansion of probation services and introduction of electronic monitoring are seen as key developments in reducing the prison population, and the national Criminal Code is currently being revised to allow for a review of sentencing practice.
A number of experts shared the European experience of using electronic monitoring – in the UK, Netherlands and Germany. All agreed that probation is more effective than imprisonment for less serious crimes in terms of reducing the reoffending rate as well as being more cost effective. They stressed that electronic monitoring has an important part to play as a correctional tool, particularly in helping people to develop more self control over their lives and to comply with court-imposed restrictions. However, it is not a panacea and electronic monitoring works best when supported by trained probation services with the resources to provide supervision and advice for offenders.
A number of lessons learnt from experience elsewhere were at the conference and will be taken into account in finalising the Criminal Codes. The General Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of Interior agree the need to expand the use of non-custodial sentences in order to establish fairer and more proportionate sanctions.
PRI co-organised this conference, which was hosted by the General Prosecutor’s Office, and supported by the Ministry of Interior, Commissioner for Human Rights, OSCE Centre in Astana, the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation, the EU project for supporting judicial and legal reform and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.