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Moot Service” Probation Bureau?

March 8, 2008
Shorena Kakabadze, Kutaisi

Imereti Regional Branch of the non-custodial and Probation National Service Department is located in Railway Square # 3 in Kutaisi. There are few people working in the office and the same thing can be notice in other cities. Most don’t know what the Probation Service Department does, not even what it is suppose to do. For all practical purposes it is something that looks good in theory but has not been put into practice.

The Law of Georgia on the Procedure of Execution for non-confinement “non-imprisonment” “Sentence and Probation Services” envisages several types of alternative punishment, and one of them is imposing public service for to offenders.

After the court summon on imposing the work for the public good is received the Probation Bureau submits a requests to the local government to estimate the type and place of the working place for the one that has been ordered to do community service. The request should outline the complete term of the ordered work and the duration of the hours of the working day that is envisaged under the Criminal Code.

The prisoners, who are under supervision of the Probation bureau, are obliged to visit the office on a regular basis to check in. Those participating in the program do not have right to leave the city, country, etc without the permission having been first obtained the Probation Bureau. They have to follow all instructions given by the bureau.

Lawyers from Kutaisi state that the above-mentioned type of execution has not implemented in actuality.  Consequently they cannot provide concrete examples of where probation and community service has been imposed.

Evgeni Omanadze, an attorney explains that “it something that is left over from the communist regime. The probation aims to improve the behaviour of the convicted person and integrate him/her back into the society. We should introduce such types of sentences based on the interests of those convicted. Their interests are directly connected with the overall interests of the society. Probation Service had more functions previously; today several types of punishment do not work (work for public good or correctional work). It has maintained only supervision function and cannot achieve the final target, which is to improve the behaviour of the convicted person. In fact its activities are simple a formality. I would like to see the functions of the Probation Service increased at least in the educational field. I mean they should open some educational centre or sign a contract with some tutorial organizations to provide some kinds of services.”

The Human Rights Centre asked a question as to how many people were charged under the non-imprisonment sentence in recent times and has carried out some kind of public service. The head of the Imereti Probation Bureau replied only four people had been processed under the system thus far.
 “The court rarely passes verdicts on similar sentence and judges never use such sentences. In the last four years Imereti Probation Bureau has only supervises four cases. Two of the sentenced people are employed by the Kutaisi Sanitary Service Department,” said Zaza Kvernadze, the head of the Imereti Probation Bureau.

Kutaisi Sanitary Service Department confirm the fact of employing those that have been sentenced to community service. “Both of them were adults and performed their work properly. However, similar success stories are not frequent,” said Tamaz Chakvetadze, the head of the Kutaisi Sanitary Service Department.

Niko Kankava, the lawyer for the Human Rights Centre’s Kutaisi Office explained that “Probation Bureau implements only it function as of now. They fixed the date for the convicted people when they must visit the bureau and that they are required by all means to sing a document. According to the law, the probation service office should carry out a set of various activities to rehabilitate their “beneficiaries” back into Georgian society. In fact, the probation service department and other state bodies (healthcare, social service department, employment service department and self-governmental bodies) is not cooperating whatsoever because the Ministry of Justice has not worked out a general working strategy as how this is to be accomplished.  Consequently, the probation service does not have any function at all.”

It is evident that a person can receive information about the probation service only after the court passes a verdict and his/her relative has to visit probation bureau at fixed time. However, the convicted person has limited contact with the bureau. He just shows up and signs that he has reported for the day. 

“In foreign countries the probation service department has specific and concrete function, and even before the sentence in passed the probation office submits its conclusion and assessment to of the appropriate punishment to the court. The service also investigates why the accused committed a crime in the first place and takes into consideration the educational level, social and family conditions, and what conditions the to be sentenced person has been living.. Probation Service is then ready to meet with convicted for a conference and to discuss the necessary measures to get the person back on track: finding a job, resolving key issues that impact his health and family environment,”  Niko Kankava.

How close the Georgian standard comply with foreign standards and how fruitful the probation will be for those that pass through the program convicted people and the society in general is left to be demonstrated. Time will be the proof of the success of the program.