May 14th and 15th 2013 the Hotel Ziva in Belgrade hosted the Minister of Justice Mr Nikola Silacovic as well as the Director of Penal Sanctions Mr Milan Stevovic and all of Serbia's prison directors as well as the OSCE representatives who have partnered with the Serbian MoJ in drafting the new legislation and administrative procedures for the next seven years.
Mr Silacovic's opening address was a frank and meaningful speech in which he spoke of the need to cooperate with CSOs and NGOs to create specialised treatment programmes for special categories of inmates including women, juveniles, the mentally ill and LGBT prisoners.
The rehabilitation and reintegration strategy is a fundamental part of this strategy for reforming the prisons and penitentiary system with focus being given to vulnerable groups such as inmates with psychiatric illnesses where the development of special services for this category will now begin.
Silacovic also spoke of the need to fully develop alternative measures (and this was repeated by OSCE in their address) and build on the probation offices that are already in existence in order to bring down costs to the prison system and reduce the huge overcrowding issue that still faces Serbia's prisons.
The reforms include strategic guidelines for special categories, vulnerable groups and the entire reform is designed to better protect the prisoners and their rights in order to support their rehabilitation and peaceful re-entry into open society.
An oversight committee of 12 members will meet bi-annually to assess the implementation of the new strategies.
Overall it was a very positive start to a two day round table in which the new reforms and their implementation will be discussed by the prison system management in the prescence of the NGO sector and media.