Balkan Criminology

Partners

A Max Planck Partner Group

Restorative Justice Croatia

RJ Croatia - Restorative Justice at Post-Sentencing Level - Supporting and Protecting Victims

Croatian Project Team: Assoc. Prof. Anna-Maria Getoš Kalac(Head of Project), Prof. Dr. Mladen Knežević (Lead Researcher), MPPG contact for research focuses II: Reana Bezić (Junior Researcher)

Croatian Project Partners: Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Croatia

The EU funded project “Restorative Justice at Post Sentencing level; Supporting and Protecting Victims” was conducted in the period 2013 to 2014. It aimed at analysing restorative justice (JR) under two relatively new perspectives: first, in a specific setting, i.e, at the post-conviction stage, and second, with a particular focus on its implementation as a victim-oriented instrument. Lead partner was the Schleswig-Holstein Association for Social Responsibility in Criminal Justice, Victim- and Offender Treatment (Germany). 21 government- and non-government organisations from Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK participated in the project. In this way a relevant contribution to the implementation of the Victims’ Directive of the European Union (2012/29/ EU) was achieved in all these countries.

The 2012 EU directive promotes the establishment of minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. Its article 12 demands the establishment of safeguards and standards to prevent secondary victimisation in the context of penal mediation and other restorative justice services. In order to support the implementation of such safeguards and standards,the project made an inquiry what mechanisms are in place or should be in place to assure that RJ is used in the interest of victims. It was found that there is currently only a limited offer of RJ at post-sentencing level in the countries surveyed. On the other hand, especially victims of more serious crimes are often in need of such an offer that can help to find a closure. Particularly at this stage, victims may have greater trust in the measure than in earlier stages of criminal proceedings as they do not have the feeling that the measure might be misused as a means to reach a mitigation of the sentence. While the focus of the project was on RJ in prison settings, other post-sentencing measures were not excluded.

An action research approach was applied, based on a qualitative methodology, which allowed approaching the field of RJ practices in prison which is still new, for not to say unknown, in some of the countries. Analysis was focusing on dialog and in a process-oriented manner, with close interconnection between theory and practice. Action research methodology allowed creative search for the best possible implementation of RJ in prison settings for a diversity of cases and within different legal and institutional frameworks. Three conferences were held as a methodological means for diagnosis and for generating substantial theoretical knowledge on the status quo as well as on best practices in the partner countries. Study visits allowed direct exchange between practitioners. Different methods and practices applied in prisons include pilot projects of victim offender mediation, conferencing, victim empathy training, victim groups, guided visits for victims in prison, victim-offender dialogues and other methods, or a combination of those. They were qualitatively evaluated through observation and guided interviews with victims, aiming at gaining further in-depth knowledge on their needs and expectations. Through this approach we expect to motivate decision makers and practitioners in providing Restorative Justice to all those affected by a crime.

RJ Croatia was carried out in two prisons in Croatia: in the medium security prison Lipovica, Popovaca and in the maximum security prison Zagreb. In Croatia there are no service providers active yet who would deal exclusively with the delivery of RJ. It is likely that at the current stage of its development, due to the extremely difficult economic conditions, implementation of RJ as a separate structure in terms of organisation and equipped with personnel are still not going to happen. However, the Ministry of Justice demonstrates interest for this issue and considers the possibility to introduce RJ within the system of probation that already has a relatively well organised structure.

Activities:

  • Three Project Conferences (Barcelona, Oxford, Kiel)
  • Study Visits for Practitioners in the Partner Countries
  • RJ - Pilot Projects
  • Training of Practitioners

Source and further information: RJ Homepage

MPPG contact for RJ Croatia: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Anna-Maria Getoš Kalac