The Council of Europe’s one-year "Assistance for the Reform of the Correctional System in Serbia" project will introduce Serbia’s prisons to modern instruments and working methods to build the capacity of prison staff and to contribute to the development of a safe, secure and transparent environment for persons detained in the prisons. Anticipated outcomes include improvements to the current inspection and complaint system, implementation of modern juvenile justice policies and enhancements to Serbia’s probation system.

Development Context and Background

In 2001 as one of the first activities An assessment of the correctional system in Serbia by experts from Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) identified the inexistence of training programmes for staff as being one of the major problems of the system.

In the period between 2003 and 2005, CoE implemented a Joint Programme (JP) with the European Commission to assist Serbia and Montenegro (SCG) with their process of accession to the CoE in April 2003. One of the specific objectives of the JP was to enable SCG to fulfill European requirements/standards in managing the penitentiary system and in preparing for prisoners’ reinsertion (including juvenile offenders). Under this objective, the JP dealt with three main issues: legislative reform, capacity-building for prison staff and community sanctions and measures. The project supported the Serbian authorities in reforming the legislation of the correctional system, in particular facilitating the drafting of new laws on execution of penal sanctions and juvenile justice.

In November 2004 The Government adopted a Penal Reform Strategy (Strategy) in order to meet the priorities of the Serbian European Partnership. The Strategy is aligned with European Union standards and is closely linked to the broader reform priorities set out by the Government in the Rule of Law sector. The specific commitments in the Government of Serbia’s action plan relating to “prison conditions” are:

  • Improve prison conditions in line with CoE standards, in particular as regards vulnerable groups such as juvenile offenders;
  • Ensure further training of penitentiary staff and improvement of facilities.

The recent passing of some important new pieces of legislation (new Criminal Code, new Law on Execution of Penal Sanctions, new Law on Minor Offences) mark important steps forward, yet a lot remains to be done especially in terms of implementing new normative frameworks. In line with the Strategy, the Minister of Justice of Serbia (MoJ) has presented an action plan for the reform of the penal system, establishing 12 commissions on different core aspects of the reform.

In April 2006 CoE launched The “Assistance for the Reform of the Correctional System Project” funded by CIDA. This project seeks to support the implementation of determined parts of the Strategy, namely the development of modern systems of complaints and inspection that ensure that human right standards are adhered to, the introduction of a global approach to juvenile offenders, and the introduction and promotion of alternatives to imprisonment.

Programme Description

The project will seek to support the implementation of Serbia’s Prison Reform Strategy with assistance in the following major areas of intervention:

  • Training of Prison’s staff on European Prison Rules and other relevant European standards;
  • Establishment of modern and effective systems of complaints, investigation and inspection;
  • Assistance with reforms related to juvenile offenders;
  • Development of a probation service, alternative sanctions and measures.

Goal and Objectives

The goal of the “Assistance for the Reform of the Correctional System Project” is to enable the Serbian authorities to work towards fulfilling the European requirements and international best practices in the field of the enforcement of criminal sanctions and in the management of correctional establishments.

The objectives of the project are as follow:

  1. To contribute to increasing prison and ministry staff knowledge of the relevant European prison standards.
  2. To contribute to the establishment of a prison system that meets European prison standards, more specifically that respects inmate’s rights by being accountable and transparent.
  3. To contribute to the development of a juvenile justice system that respects juvenile offenders ‘rights and contributes to their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
  4. To support the development of probation service by that is orientated toward the sustainable rehabilitation of ex-inmates.
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