Council of Europe’s (CoE) SPACE II (Aebi & Hashimoto, 2019) latest information estimates there were nearly 800000 probationers under the supervision of the 25 European Union [EU] probation services that contributed to the report (Aebi & Hashimoto, 2019). The report also notes that a little over 45000 of these probationers are foreign nationals – according to the data provided by 17 EU probation services. Additionally, according to the CoE’s latest SPACE I report (Aebi & Tiago, 2021a), “15% of the inmates held in Europe are foreigners, [although it] differs substantially across nations” (Aebi & Tiago, 2021b, p. 5). In fact, foreigners seem to be overrepresented in the prison population of various EU jurisdictions, such as Austria (53%), Belgium (43%), and Italy (33%) (Aebi & Tiago, 2021a;), therefore indicating a tendency of judges and magistrates to resort to custodial measures in lieu of probation measures or alternative sentences (Hammond, 2017; Montaldo, 2020).
Furthermore, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, and Romania are among the countries with the largest probationer population. The first five are also positioned in the top 10 regarding the largest numbers of foreign probationers (Aebi & Hashimoto, 2019). On a further note, Romania has also been known to have a rather high number of nationals imprisoned abroad or serving probation measures/alternative sanctions (Bird et al., 2015). In this context, the New Strategic Agenda for the Union 2019-2024 names the protection of its citizens and freedoms as its first priority (Council of the European Union [CEU], 2019), a goal that goes hand in hand with international judicial cooperation amongst its Member States (EU MSs). In terms of judicial practices, the project of European integration promotes the usage of alternative sanctions to detention as one of the fundamental elements towards a more productive strategy of social rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders (CEU, 2019).Taking into account the associated consequences and difficulties faced by this non-negligible number of foreign national probationers, and the central objective of achieving social rehabilitation of offenders, Framework Decision (FD) 2008/947 for Mutual recognition of probation measures and alternative sanctions focuses precisely on governing the transfer of these individuals amongst EUMSs (CEU, 2009). After a troublesome path to achieve the instrument’s transposition to national legislation, many obstacles to the full implementation of this FD persist, especially in what concerns its usage by professionals. In fact, according to the findings of a survey carried by the European Judicial Network (EJN), mutual recognition instruments such as FD 2008/947 are not commonly used by practitioners in EUMSs for various reasons (EJN Secretariat, 2019). Concretely, the number of times the instrument was activated by Austria, Belgium, Italy, Romania, and Portugal altogether barely reaches 50 (EJN Secretariat, 2019).
The J-CAP “Judicial cooperation for the enhancement of mutual recognition regarding probation measures and alternative sanctions” project intends to improve the execution of FD 2008/947, through an awareness-raising approach, but also through the development of practical material (e.g., guidance booklet, contextualised glossary, updated software) to facilitate the execution of 947’s instrument) – having judges and magistrates as its primary target group, but also involving lawyers.