Conference “Interdepartmental cooperation, mental health and modern technologies – Challenges of modern probation service”

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Organised by the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration of Croatia and the Norwegian Correctional Service, the international conference was held in Opatija on 4 and 5 October.

The conference was opened by State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration Vedrana Šimundža-Nikolić and H.E. Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway to Croatia Arne Sannes Bjørnstad.

State Secretary Šimundža-Nikolić pointed out that the project “Strengthening human rights protection and public safety by improving the capacities of the Croatian probation service” is a result of a partnership between Croatia and Norway which has resulted in numerous advances in improving judicial infrastructure, electronic services of the judiciary, increasing the competencies of judges and strengthening the protection of human rights.

“In a decade of its existence, the Croatian probation service has grown into a service that plays a central role in the social integration of criminal offenders as well as in the protection of the community.  The results and successes of our service have been internationally acknowledged, which is a recognition to all our probation officers”, said the State Secretary.

Speaking about the objectives of the project financed by Norway Grants, the State Secretary emphasised that the project results will serve the Croatian probation service permanently, especially when it comes to the procurement of devices for electronic monitoring of persons released on parole, introduced in the Croatian penological system in 2022.

“The purchase of electronic bracelets allowed us to introduce electronic monitoring of persons on parole into our system. We are using the experience of implementing the electronic monitoring of parolees to upgrade the system of electronic monitoring of persons deprived of liberty, as we are aware of the advantages that such a system has for the overall penological system”, the State Secretary pointed out.

In the context of strengthening the protection of human rights, the State Secretary noted that the implementation of the Roma mentors pilot project has resulted in numerous positive developments in the integration of the Roma community in Međimurje County. The pilot project included the employment of six Roma from the area of Međimurje County, who were trained in cooperation with Czech experts. 

Thanks to this project, significant steps have been made not only in fulfilling the obligations related to the execution of probation measures and sanctions, but also in addressing everyday problems of the Roma community, for example when it comes to the exercise of the right to healthcare, continuation of education and enrolment of children in preschool education.

“Roma mentors have made a great contribution to the efforts to combat domestic violence by informing the competent institutions and working with victims of domestic violence. By providing support to victims of domestic violence and providing timely information, the mentors joined the victim support system", said State Secretary Šimundža-Nikolić.

She welcomed the central topic of the conference – mental health of probation officers, and highlighted the awareness of the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration that probation officers face stressful, challenging and traumatic situations on a daily basis.
“It is inevitable that such situations leave a trace on their daily lives, not only in the workplace, but also in their private lives. We will therefore continue to work on improving the system of support for the probation staff to reduce risks or consequences for their mental health", Ms Šimundža-Nikolić concluded.

The international conference was attended by Secretary General of the Confederation of European Probation Jana Špero, Director of International Cooperation of Norwegian Correctional Service Kim Ekaugen, Director General of Slovenian Probation Administration Danijela Mrhar Prelić and representatives of the probation services of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, North Macedonia and Montenegro.