Interview with Stephan Johnson

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On July 15th, 2013, Justice in Kosovo discussed about Kosovo prisons.

Among the things discussed were the conditions within the prisons across Kosovo. The debate also included discussions on people with political power who are in prisons, and the possession of weapons and mobile phones in prison.  To discuss these issues, Justice in Kosovo interviewed the head of EULEX Correctional Service, Stephan Johnson.

Stephan Johnson is from United Kingdom. He worked many years in the Prison Service in Wales and England as a senior officer and prison security officer. Mr. Johnson initially worked as a United Nation Mission in Kosovo officer, from 2001 to 2004. He returned to Kosovo in 2008 and he is currently the head of the EULEX Correctional Unit.

In 2001, Mr. Johnson worked for UNMIK in prisons of Dubrava, Lipjan, and Prizren. Mr. Johnson says that there are many differences comparing current time prisons with the prisons in 2001. One of the main differences is that the international prison administration has stopped and the EULEX only monitors and supports the Kosovo colleagues.

“We have to admit and recognize that the Kosovo Correction Service is a young institution”, said Mr. Johnson. He also mentioned that there are many challenges that Kosovo Institution, in this case Correctional Services, has to overcome.

In addition, “the conditions in Kosovo Prisons are acceptable and are the same as the prisons in the region. I hear many times negative comments about the prisons, but I must say that people have to stop and think how much has Kosovo achieved in the last years”, added Stephan Johnson.

Moreover, the staff working in Correctional Services is doing a tremendous job, but their job is not an easy one. Their job is very difficult to perform because they are exposed to intimidation and dangerous threats. Mr. Johnson also mentioned that in Kosovo Prisons there are some Influencing Prisoners and they exert a certain amount of pressure on the staff of Correctional Services. Such state of affairs associated with threats was attributed to be one of the reasons why the staff might hesitate to accept that there is smuggling into the prison.  The Kosovo Correctional Service is expected to manage the prisoners that could not be caught by the Kosovo Police and could not be judged by Kosovo Judges.

Something that is worth mentioning is that the prisons of Kosovo need more financial support, said Johnson.

Finally, in England every person that wants to join the Correctional Service should pass through national services. Their background is checked by the national services to make sure that they do not have previous criminal convictions and to make sure that they broke no law, said Mr. Johnson.

Justice in Kosovo also contacted the former director of Dubrava Prison, Haki Maxharraj, and asked him if there is misuse of the prison leaves.

 “At that time, when I was the director of the prison, the weekend leaves were given based on the law, more precisely the article 95 and 96 of the Law on Execution of Criminal Sanctions”, said Haki Maxharraj.