Justice minister sets out smart crime policy to 2030

Justice Minister Raivo Aeg (Isamaa).
Justice Minister Raivo Aeg (Isamaa). Source: ERR

A document setting out the general principles of criminal policy in Estonia down to 2030 has been put to the government for deliberation.

The principles, set out by Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) prioritizes rendering the criminal justice system quicker, smarter and more person-centered, as well as preventing juvenile repeat offences and increasing the share of alternative penalties, BNS reports.

Aeg said policy's aims are to foster a law-abiding society and the values serving as basis for that.

"The criminal justice system must get faster and more peroson-centered; that is how simple yet ambitious our goal for 2030 is," Aeg said.

"The focus must be shifted on to the individuals ‒ both the victims and offenders," he continued.

"On the one hand, offense proceedings must restore a victim's sense of security, and the situation preceding the violation of law as quickly as possible. On the other, proceedings must also support rehabilitation of the offender, for instance by increasing the share of alternative punishments, offering a support service after release from prison, as well as treatment and counseling to offenders with addiction or mental health problems," the minister noted.

"Even though crime rates have nearly halved in Estonia over the past couple of decades, high recidivism rates nevertheless overshadow our otherwise successful criminal policy," Aeg continued, adding that the ministry's vision aims to render the crime rate, particularly violent crime, to the lowest level possible by 2030 with the help of a smart criminal policy.

"This, however, requires helping people exit the cycle of recidivism, which we cannot do alone; instead, we need effective cooperation with the social and education systems, for instance, in order to treat addiction and mental health problems as health issues, and prevent young people's entry into the vicious cycle of crime with the help of the education system," he added.

Aeg noted that other important challenges include appropriately responding to future risks, and keeping up with the development of technology.

"To ensure criminal proceedings remain efficient in these rapidly changing conditions, our law-enforcement personnel needs to be competent and able to cope with cyber threats. In order to expedite criminal proceedings, we need to place increased trust in technology, as the switch to digital proceedings needs to occur throughout the whole chain of offense proceedings. This, however, also requires technological know-how in addition to software development and the rethinking of our work processes," Aeg said.

The minister added that the criminal policy also aims to create an increased trust in community-based or alternative punishments. 

"Clearly, there are crimes for which imprisonment is the only possible punishment. But when it comes to offenses where the offender could make amends for their deeds in a way that preserves their links with society, however, alternative penalties should be used, be it community work or participation in disciplinary social or treatment programs," Aeg said.  

The general principles of criminal policy to 2030 are included in the government's 100-day action plan, where it will be discussed, then forwarded to the Riigikogu for deliberation.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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