"Challenges of the Probation Service of Kazakhstan in terms of Rules on Probation" (Ben Zengerink at the Presentation Interagency Working Group Law on Probation)

Dear ladies and gentlemen, First of all I would like to emphasize that I’m very honored with the invitation to join this expert meeting and with that to contribute to the development of the probation in Kazakhstan.

Before I will delve into the subject on which I have been asked to contribute, “Challenges of the Probation Service of Kazakhstan in terms of rules on probation” I would like to give a short introduction on the phenomenon “Probation”. I’ll give you a brief introduction on the history of the probation in the Netherlands, to create a common understanding and to put a floor under interest and usability of the European Probation Rules. My colleagues Leo Tigges and Steve Pitt will go into more detail on the probation systems in respectively the Netherlands and Great Britten.

In 1823 the Netherlands Society for Moral Improvement of Prisoners was founded. The society was a private initiative, without any government interference. The members of the society (all volunteers) did not agree with the way punishment took shape in the Netherlands. Imprisonment at that time was purely focused on retribution. Prisoners learned nothing during their captivity. Justice hoped the prisoners would come for self-understanding by imprisonment and would improve their lives. Unfortunately, this happened rarely and most former prisoners, once free again fell back into their old behavior. The Society for Moral Improvement wanted to stimulate prisoners to change their behavior by offering them shelter and education, learning them more skills. This way of thinking was supported by studies from scientists who started a discussion about usefulness and uselessness of imprisonment, human rights and minimum conditions for building and standards for internal organization.

Until 1900 government did not interfere with the aid. It was all about charity.

During the 19th century the government realized that isolation from society had little meaning. The importance of education and the learning of other behaviors was recognized. Moreover, it was more and more aware that crime linked to the social conditions under which some people lived. This also increased the focus on prevention. In 1910 was the first Law on Probation Activities was established. In that law the conditional imprisonment made his appearance, as well as the conditional release. This gave the probation a clear task in terms of guidance and supervision of (ex-) prisoners. As a result of this a new task for the probation appeared: report to justice. Because in case of relapse or breaking the conditions the public prosecutors and the judges wanted to be informed about the suspect. His situation, his behavior and consequences of certain sanctions, before to come to a verdict.

After World War II the prison system was significantly improved. During the Second World War many Dutch bourgeoisie, that never had seen a prison from the inside before, had been imprisoned by the occupier; including a lot of policemen, layers, public prosecutors and judges. From upon their own experiences they promoted the establishment of pretrial reports. No citizen should be sent to prison without a thorough research by the probation in order to inform the public prosecutors and judges about person and circumstances of the offender. In 1945, the Dutch Association of Former Political Prisoners started a campaign aimed at reorganizing the prison system. Isolation alone cannot improve a criminal, was their motto. This improved the position and the public support for the probation. More governmental money was made available and paid employees made their entrance. And with them the development of professionalism.

From upon the 60’s (the so called flower power area) in the Netherlands –and consequently also within the Dutch the Probation- the leading idea about crime was that ALL crime is caused by social injustice. A perpetrator was seen as the victim of his childhood and / or society .In the 80’s the Probation chanced her identity, vision, mission and methodologies enormously. Crime is perhaps partly due to poor social conditions, but offenders are not unwilling victims. The responsibility of criminals is nowadays seen as increasingly important factor. The probation service itself is organized far more businesslike, the probation officers are well trained to work with scientifically developed methods as Risk assessments and Motivational Interviewing.

What could be learned of this brief history in terms of the European Probation Rules?

First of all there is not, cannot be and will not be a fixed model of probation or even the best probation model that would fit to all countries. Probation is relating to national laws, specific cultural aspects within separate societies, demography, economy, politics, coincidental historical developments, time-related visions and views and a lot more variants. In other words: don’t try to find the Holy Grail! Because you will not find it.

However, having said so, there is a lot to be find what can help you to draft your laws and to develop your own best probation service. The European Probation Rules could perfectly be used as a guidebook to develop your Probation Service in accordance to international standards; as a key part in helping the justice system to maximise the wider financial, effectiveness and social benefits.

The rules don’t prescribe the design of organizations, they focus on the identification of the basic values were regulations, activities, protocols and procedures should be build on. Basic values that are in line with the Human Rights and a fair criminal justice process.

The structure of the Rules is as follows:

  • Preamble
  • Scope and definitions
  • Basic Principles
  • Organisation and staff
  • Accountability and relations with other agencies
  • Probation Work
  • Complaint procedures, inspection and monitoring
  • Research, evaluation, work with the media and the public
  • A Glossary of the terms used
  • An Explanatory Memorandum

Examples of rules are:

Basic rules

  • Probation agencies shall aim to reduce offending by establishing positive relationships with offenders in order to supervise, guide and assist them and to promote their successful social inclusion. Probation thus contributes to community safety and fair justice process.

2Probation agencies shall respect the human rights of offenders. All their interventions shall have due regard to the dignity, health, safety and well-being of offenders.

4Probation agencies shall take full account of the individual characteristics, circumstances and needs of offenders in order to ensure that each case is dealt with justly and fairly. …

12 Probation agencies shall work in partnership with other public or private organisations and local communities to promote the social inclusion of offenders. Co-ordinated and complementary inter-agency and inter-disciplinary work is necessary to meet the often complex needs of offenders and to enhance community safety.


21 Probation agencies shall ac in a manner that earns the respect of other justice agencies and civil society for the status and work of probation staff. The competent authorities shall endeavor to facilitate the achievement of this aim by providing appropriate resources, focused selection and recruitment, adequate remuneration of the staff and good management.

22Staff shall be recruited and selected in accordance with approved criteria which shall place emphasis on the need for integrity, humanity, professional capacity and personal suitability for the complex work they are required to to.

24Initial training shall be provided to all staff and shall seek to impart the relevant skills, knowledge and values...

Probation work

42Depending on the national legal system, probation agencies may prepare pre-sentence

reports on individual alleged offenders in order to assist, where applicable, the judicial

authorities in deciding whether to prosecute or what would be the appropriate sanctions

or measures...

Are the Principles of the Rules in accordance with national policies?

  • Mostly: Yes and especially “We do this already”
  • Many countries affirm the ideas of (notably) Rule 1 – relationship and social inclusion …
  • Probation has different meanings in different countries and so the thinking behind probation practice and organisation structures differ widely
  • Some have for example another conception of probation, e.g. “control and monitoring of offenders is more important than ‘welfare’ and rehabilitation”
  • Countries with newer probation services have tended to embrace the Rules to help them develop their service and are linked into European networks like CEP– which advocates the Rules and promotes the cause

Concrete examples

  • Romania: new probation law based on EPR; example: the client’s right to have access to their case file is now incorporated into law
  • Croatia: EPR were big inspiration for legislation and training; the rules have been incorporated into the Croatian Probation Code
  • Estonia: established case management, supervision methods, work with families, processes, risk assessments and planning interventions based on EPR
  • Estonia: the National Standards were re-written and they match now with the EPR. The EU Rules have been used as a benchmark and basis for domestic practice regulations
  • Poland: process of supervision, assessment, planning, individualizing intervention and evaluation.
  • Latvia: supporting the establishment of the research and training unit and in and in building a framework for evaluation


  • Countries differ in many ways, history, culture, demography, economy, politics
  • Probation agencies differ also in many ways: large/small; established/new; more/fewer resources; centralised/local; yes/no understanding of probation; and staff training
  • EPR play a key part in helping the justice system to maximise the wider financial, effectiveness, and social benefits as jurisdictions introduce a wider range of sentence options
  • Reaching maturity in probation is a long process; we all need stamina
  • Evaluation is important, also looking back and looking forward like we do now on this conference

Your president mr Nurlatan Nazarbajev developed the 100 steps plan to organize a better connection with the worlds leading coutries. Step 33 relates directly tot he Probation. A lot have been realised already. Nevertheless a lot still has to be done. My advice: Try to embrace the International Standards: in legislation, in practice, in inspection and research and in training.

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