Ben Zengerink's speech at the launch of the EU-funded project "Enhancing criminal justice in Kazakhstan"


 “To minimize the involvement of individuals into criminal activity and to reduce criminal prosecution practice, one needs to create an environment, enabling wider imposition of criminal law sanctions, not providing for social isolation”

Ladies and gentlemen, I found this quote from the 2010 – 2020 Kazakh Legal Policy Concept, in ‘The concept of the project for 10 points of reducing the prison Population”, a joined note from The Kazakh Supreme Court, The Kazakh General Prosecutor’s Office and the Kazakh Ministry of the Interior from 2013.

Since then great strides have been made by you. However, in the conversations we had with many of you during the last 3 months, it was stressed that still much more has to be done and that you’re ready to go for it. It’s my believe that this project, our joint project is the perfect vehicle to assist you organizing the desired progress. We’ll have to do it step by step. But once we’ll have realized our goals after 3 years it will be a big jump forward.

Establishing a fully fletched Probation Service is an important and huge component in this project. Probation is a rather new phenomenon in Kazakhstan. I’ve noticed that many people I’ve spoken to, even within the law enforcement system, actually have no idea what it is, how it works and how it could benefit to reduce crimes. So let me try to explain it in a few sentences. After I’ve done this my colleague -and in the meantime- good friend Ylias Nurmangabetov will inform you about the activities we’ve planned to support Kuis in shaping a fully fletched probation service.

Probation is all about making society saver. Making society saver by changing the behavior of offenders. While keeping them in and attached to society, rather than isolating them from society by putting them in prisons.

It has been scientifically proven that prison sentences generally do not contribute to not reoffending. The opposite is true. In real life prisons are academies for crime. So, actually the government and you as a tax payer invest a lot of money in facilities where criminals become better, more professional criminals. And because of that, there is a big risk that they will endanger safety in society more than when they entered the prison.

It also has been scientifically proven that replacing prison sanctions by community sanctions, in combination with supervision by the probation, results in significantly reduced recidivism; even up to 47% less recidivism has been reported in comparison with prison sentences. As probation supervision is far cheaper than imprisonment one could state: Probation stands for: LESS COSTS, MORE RESULTS. You can read more about this in the brochure “7 facts to know about Probation”

Could this be seen as a statement to abolish all prisons? No definitely not! We we’ll need prisons for ever to isolate specific groups of offenders that cannot change their behavior and therefor will endanger safety in society for ever. But most people can change and they should be encouraged and stimulated to do so by probation officers. Probation officers who very are well trained in using scientifically developed methods and standard procedures. Probation officers who should be enabled to start their activities as soon as possible after the arrest of offenders. Who can make analysis on the risk of reoffending and what has to be done to prevent this. Who can make presentence reports for the public prosecutors and the judges so they can impose more individualized punishments, more focused on not reoffending then on retribution.

A prerequisite for the achievement of good results is that the probation will be a constant factor in the “judicial chain”. So there is a need to extent the already existing post-trial and post penitentiary probation with the pre-trial and penitentiary probation.

As I’ve recently been informed there is a discussion going on to postpone the development and introduction of the pre-trial probation activities, because of economic reasons.

I would like to stress -here and now- that there are 2 solid reasons to organize pre-trial probation in combination with introducing community sanctions, even in times of an economic crises. One is related to the content. Organizing change in the offender’s behavior should start as soon as possible. And one exactly based on economics. Pre-trial probation in combination with the introduction of community sentences will generate a huge return on investments.

Wouldn’t this be the perfect answer on the call “To reduce criminal prosecution practice by creating an environment, enabling wider imposition of criminal law sanctions, not providing for social isolation in order to minimize the involvement of individuals into criminal activity.”

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