A delegation of judges, prosecutors and probation officers from Ukraine visited the Netherlands for a working visit. This visit was part of the Matra project ‘Probation and alternative sanctions in Ukraine’ aimed at strengthening the institutional capacity of the Ukrainian probation service. During their visit the Ukrainian guests exchanged professional experiences with their Dutch peers, connected with each other and established an inter-institutional cooperation.
At the Probation office in Amsterdam the participants learned about the organizational structure and function of the probation service in the Netherlands. A striking difference with the Ukrainian procedure is that in the Netherlands a pre-trial report (probation advice) can be requested by any partner in the probation chain at any stage of the process. The probation service is involved from the very beginning and can give advice on several occasions. Probation officer Michiel van Herpen explained the structure of a pre-trial advice and shared his experience of working with the risk taxation instrument OXREC. The Ukrainian delegates found out that there are no fixed instructions on how to fill in a pre-trial report, while they are used to follow a strict procedure in Ukraine. Supervision product manager Marco de Kok explained the conditions and the cycle of probation supervision. The participants also learned about various types of behavioral programs and how these are organised.
The second day of the program contained a visit to the District Court of in Maastricht, where the delegation attended two court hearings, one of which resulted into sentencing the offender to community service. After that the participants visited a police station with a ZSM location (‘Zo Snel Mogelijk’ – method ‘As Soon As Possible’), where the police and probation officers, together with the prosecutor and victims’ support (Slachtofferhulp Nederland), work to solve the incoming cases as soon as possible.
On the final day of the visit the participants were shown how the electronic monitoring and community service work. There was a lively discussion among the Ukrainian and Dutch probation experts about the image of probation and the necessary changes in Ukrainian legislation. Lastly, the delegation visited the premises of a big community service group project in Amsterdam, where the participants were clearly impressed by the way the process is organised.
It was a rather intense working visit with a lot of practical examples of how the Dutch probation system works. This experience was very inspiring for the participants, who understood also each other’s problems in professional work and started to understand each other better. They got inspired to borrow the Dutch model of cooperation between the courts, probation service and the prosecutor’s office. These ideas will be implemented in the future stages of the project in 2019.