In 2018, the CJ-CAP Armenia Fellows traveled to the United States for their month-long, tailored fellowship program. Their program focuses on working together to reform the pretrial detention system in Armenia. The Fellows established an interagency working group to develop legislative and institutional changes to reduce pretrial detention and improve the use of alternative mechanisms. While in the US, the Fellows gained exposure to different US jurisdictions’ experiences with pretrial detention, compared common issues and built solutions, and worked in partnership to develop alternative mechanisms that are appropriate and feasible in the Armenian justice system.
The fellows highlighted tremendous success in the implementation of their reform plan and provided an update/report on the code of criminal procedure in Armenia. Both a new criminal code and a new code of criminal procedure were adopted. Essential changes include arrests being reconceived as the ultimate restraining measure, rather than the default approach. Based largely on the fellows’ inputs, the revised codes include an array of alternative measures to detention, including house arrest and/or electronic monitoring (e.g., ankle bracelets), restrictions on interactions and/or communications with certain individuals, limitations on movement to certain locations, imposition of curfews, assignation of bail, and suspension of office/restraining measures for public servants awaiting or undergoing trial. The Armenian fellows are considering a package of changes for probation services including changes to the status of probation service and the service of pretrial reports to the court. When compared to other countries, the Armenian probation service is rather new. The fellows do not want to burden it with all the classical functions of other probation services, because they feel as if they must consider the resources they have. In the future, they plan for the service to have a full array of services but want to introduce these incrementally.
The Armenia Fellows are mentored by justice sector professionals from the state of Kentucky working the areas of court administration with a focus on pretrial services, the department of public advocacy and the office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.