Presentation at the Interagency Working Group Law on Probation (Ben Zengerink)

Dear ladies and gentleme,Some time ago members from the project staff and the KUIS staff were discussing the best strategy to design a proper plan for the further development of the Probation organisation as well the probation tasks. It was then that the idea was born to start with an observation and analysis from the daily practice from probation officers. In order to compare the actual situation and with goals that will have to be realized in the future. So it would be possible to identify and determine what kind of needs probation officers in Kazakhstan are lacking regarding the plans to establish a full fletched Probation Organisation with high professional standards that are in line with the international standards for probation. Furthermore KUIS decided that piloting would be the best way to implement the upcoming changes. So it will be possible to find out what works and whether things will have to be changed before they will be rolled out nation-wide.

The 3 pilot regions are Astana, Almaty city and Almaty region. The last 2 weeks 2 experts Valentina Afanasov from Romania and Michiel van Herpen from the Netherlands performed the requested analysis, last Friday they presented their findings, conclusions and recommendations asworded in their Mission Report, that still is in a concept stage, while there was little time to finalise it. But shortly the final version will be available in English as well as Russian.

Before highlighting their main findings I would firstly address my gratitude and compliments to the staff members from KUIS that made this mission possible. I was able to take part of it myself some days and I would like to state that it was organized in a perfect way. But there was more than only the technical aspects. We met committed colleagues, with an open attitude, willingness to share information and thoughts and eagerness to learn. All at all professionals, with – as I use to say- the right probation DNA.Which give me not only hope, but also trust for the future.

I’ll now give you a resume of the mission report, by highlighting the most important elements. The experts made a detailed report on their field activities but it would take too much time.

Objectives of the Mission

  • Observation of the probation officers in their daily practice in order to evaluate the activities, (social) skills, addressing/approach of the clients.
  • Analyse the instruments/programmes used by probation officers in their daily activity in order to prevent the reoffending of the clients;
  • To establish if and how the European probation rules could be used as a guideline for improving the Kazakh probation system.
  • Deliver a set of rules and recommendations which could be used by probation officers in order to improve their daily practice with the clients;
  • Setting tools and best practice in the probation system of Kazakhstan, which can be used in the subsequent activities of the project and trainings of probation officers;
  • Identify and determine what kind of needs probation officers in Kazakhstan are lacking.
  • In accordance with European probation recommendations, the recording of information are registered in formal, confidential, accurate and up-to-date records and there are strict procedures how to handle the information and it is used for clearly defined purposes. Regarding incoming phone calls, discussions with the clients, etc. we noticed that these are not put in writing.In order to have a complete and up-to -date information about client’s situation, we recommend all contacts with the clients should be registered.
  • We discovered that the probation clients do not have access to their personal records. Although the probation officer informs the clients regularly with regard to his obligations and rights, we stress that probation clients should have access to their file, in accordance with the European recommendations on probation.
  • The probation service in Kazakhstan does have a complaint procedure. There are two ways in which the client can complain which a positive finding. However we cannot assess whether it functions fair and impartial, in the light of the European recommendations on probation.We advise to develop a transparent and fair complaint procedure.
  • The control and monitoring of clients seems to dominate in the Kazakh probation. The probation officer conducts ‘preventing talks’, refers the client to social or legal aid and maintains close contact with the client’s social network. However, we did not discover any underlying standard methods with regard to reducing recidivism and resocialization. The man-agers and the probation officers said that all probation clients are analysed at the first meeting. However we did not find anything mentioned/written in the file of probation clients.According to the European probation recommendation the evaluation should be part of the case record of the client.
  • It is very important to introduce instruments of risk assessment because it helps to under-stand client’s behaviour and needs. Beside this, it helps the judge to establish what kind of punishments and measures are appropriate. It helps also probation officers to make a supervision plan and to control the risk of re-offending. Assessment is an ongoing process and it is not static and it is very important for every stage of probation activities. Assessment takes place in the pre-trial stage, when determining an appropriate sanction or measure, at the start of supervision, when a change occurs in the life of client, when the level of supervision needs to be reviewed and at the end of supervision.
  • It is important to introduce an individual approach: every client should be evaluated as an individual person and should receive a proper intervention. This is in accordance with European probation recommendations, which state that an assessment of an offender must take in to account risks, positive factors and needs. Every client should be aware of their evaluation’ results.
  • We can see that all probation services have already established contacts with the organisations that can help the clients (psychologists, child care organizations, social work). These contacts seem to be centred mostly on control, monitoring and file keeping. Preferably the probation service in Kazakhstan should extend their cooperation with these organizations with regard to risk assessment and resocialization.
  • Discussing complex situations with the manager of the probation service is a practice that should remain in their activities, however in order to develop the skills of the probation officers and enhance shared responsibility and decrease stress in the probation work, we rec-commend that regular intervision meetings should be organized in the probation services of Kazakhstan.
  • When a probation client re-offends his/her probation officer can be disciplined by his/her superior. This means that the officer can receive a warning, but it can even lead to a redundancy of the probation officer. This rule entails that a probation officer is being held responsible for the acts of his client. This is in conflict with European probation principles. Firstly, this practice will undermine establishing positive relationships with the probation client since this practice can lead to a significant increase of stress with regard to both the probation officer and his or her client. On the one hand the probation officer could impose pressure on his or her client not to re-offend as a new offence could have negative consequences to his job. On the other hand, the client can experience extra pressure to succeed as he feels responsible for the wellbeing of his probation officer. Furthermore, this practice can distract the purpose of the probation activity to reserialize the client and avoids that the client will not learn to be responsible for his own behaviour. In effect it can undermine the most important aim of probation: the reduction of reoffending and the resocialization of the client and therefore this principle of liability conflicts with the most important aim.
  • With regard to the selection process of new probation officers: in the current situation there exists no specific selection process to the appointing of new probation workers. In the summer of 2016 students from the Kostanay Academy will finish their social work/psychology degree study and they could apply for a job as probation officer. We ac-claim this future situation. However, although probation officers with a social work back-ground will surely improve the level of knowledge with regard to interview skills and the general approach of probation clients with their special needs and behaviour, there will still be no selection process. European probation recommendation nr. 22 recommends that staff will 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 do. In the light of this rule we recommend that the Kazakh probation service, with the help of a “group of champions” (professors from Kostanay’ Academy, heads of probation of Kazakhstan, foreign experts on probation, Kazakh probation officers) in the field of social work and other organizations/persons, shall design a selection method in accordance to the European probation rules. In the current situation probation officers do not have access to education and training appropriate to their profession in order to improve social skills, knowledge and values. Neither training nor education to maintain their knowledge and skills do currently exist within Kazakh probation. We emphasize the importance of appropriate training (and maintenance training throughout the career of probation officers) in order to ensure the preservation and further development of the skills and knowledge of the probation staff. For instance: use instruments, to deliver a cognitive behaviour programme, skills development and motivational interview, etc.

Expected Results

Field work completed

We observed client interviews during their registration at the probation offices, during home visits, during a job visit and during their community service. In addition we observed the venue and the facilities of the probation service. We tried to establish whether any methodological instruments, programmes or approaches are being used by probation officers from Astana and Almaty. As a guideline for our analyse we used the European Probation Rules (adopted by the Council of Europe in 2010).

Besides the observing of client interviews we had extensive talks with mr. Ayubayev, the managers of probation officers, with probation officers with regard to their work, with the psychologist of the Astana probation service and with the community service staff of Almaty.

Recommendations for further action

Meetings to be set up for next mission

  • We propose to involve the group of champions to establish how to implement changes in the Kazakhstan probation service because it is a complex process to implement international probation standards in a country which has only some years of probation experience.
  • Training of probation officers. First of all it is very important to plan and organize some introduction training in probation activity and communication skills for social work, psychopathology (learn about various kind of disorders and recognizing psychiatric problems).
  • Development of different kind of interventions for clients of probation offices, regarding cognitive behaviour, tackling domestic violence, financial budget course, training for tackling drugs and alcohol addiction, social skills training.
  • Assess on what way Kazakh culture can be used instrumently in the Kazakh probation work. For instance, studying the concept of „shame“ which exists in the Kazakh culture and use it in a form of methodological approach in the probation work.
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