The European Social Network (ESN) organised the workshop ‘Young offenders in Europe – Active inclusion and rehabilitation’ on 11-12 July, in which services for young offenders in Greece were a key element. This formed the foundation upon which the participants could build their understanding of services for young offenders across transitions. These transition stages included trial procedures, imprisonment, and release from custody.
Before and after court trials: the role of Juvenile Probation Officers
Once a young offender is in contact with the justice system, the public sector in Greece provides targeted services before and after court trials through Juvenile Probation Officers. Eftychia Katsigaraki from the Greek Ministry of Justice explained the two main functions of Juvenile Probation Officers in Greece:
- At pre-trial stage, Juvenile Probation Officers carry out an assessment of a young offender’s needs taking into account his overall life context.
- At post-trial stage, the officers supervise educational measures, which may include community services or mediation.
While in prison: education and cultural activities for personal transformation
A combination of formal education and informal learning through extracurricular activities is crucial to support young offenders’ personal development during custody. Ioannis Papadimitriou from the school of the Avlona Prison elaborated on the transformative potential of education and made a case for not losing hope in young people despite multiple disadvantages. He specifically argued for combining formal with informal learning. According to Ioannis, young offenders needed a rich range of cultural activities to learn to understand their emotions, to express their feelings and to establish positive and trustful relationships with other people.
After release from public custody: reintegrating young offenders
If a court decides that a young person is to be taken into public custody, the need for support continues after release. Such support is provided by EPANODOS, an Athens-based centre for the reintegration of former prisoners. Foteini Milioni outlined how the EPANODOS centre pursues an integrated approach towards a former prisoner’s reintegration:
- Practical help immediately after release: EPANODOS provides former prisoners with phone call cards and meal vouchers. In addition to this, the centre coordinates temporary housing.
- Holistic support for long-term integration: EPANODOS also delivers legal counselling, psychosocial services, and employment support to address the varied barriers which young offenders may face during their integration.
Considering the different stages that a young offender might undergo, frequent transitions might occur. Each of these transitions comes with barriers and risks. Continuity of support is important in order to smooth these transitions. This support needs to address each young offender’s different needs, including their educational attainment, mental health status, labour market integration, and social inclusion in local communities.