Law students compete to support alternatives to prison in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia
An UNDEF-funded project for penal reform in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia held an essay and presentation competition for law students to increase awareness of alternatives to imprisonment, reflect on challenges of existing criminal justice policy, and advance professional interest in building a probation system, currently non-existent in Armenia, Azerbaijan. The contest asked participants to think about new approaches to working for greater use of community service and other options, demonstrate critical thinking on the low application of alternatives to imprisonment, and provide reasonable arguments to enable lobbying of the ideas before governmental bodies. The competition judges included representatives of the Council of Europe, the Ministry of Justice of Armenia, the International Federation for Human Rights, the National Probation Agency of Georgia, the Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, as well as human rights lawyers and academics from leading universities, and the award ceremonies took place in Yerevan and Tbilisi in October 2014. The goal of the overall project is to promote the effective use of non-custodial and early release measures to challenge the overuse of imprisonment, help decrease in the prison population and build proportionate responses to crime. The project works to help develop a probation system in Armenia and Azerbaijan -- including through capacity-building and lessons learned from Georgia, which does have a probation service. Penal Reform International South Caucasus is implementing the project in partnership with the Civil Society Institute of Armenia and the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan.