On 14 March, a delegation of representatives from EU Member States’ diplomatic representations in Kosovo visited the High Security Prison in Podujevë/Podujeva alongside the Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, the Deputy Minister of Justice, Blerim Sallahu, the Kosovo Correctional Service (KCS) Replacing General Director, Sami Gashi, the Head of the European Union in Kosovo / EU Special Representative, Tomáš Szunyog, the Head of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, and the Mayor Podujevë/Podujeva, Shpejtim Bulliqi.
The visit was an opportunity for the participants to learn more about the functioning and services provided by the high security prison, with a focus on the tangible support given by EULEX’s Correctional Unit to KCS’s efforts to provide sustainable prisoners’ assessment and rehabilitation in a safe and secure environment.
The Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, welcomed the participants and thanked the EU for its support to the rehabilitation and treatment of prisoners, highlighting how such activities are extremely valuable and are part of the concrete cooperation in the rule-of-law field in Kosovo.
KCS’s Replacing General Director, Sami Gashi, briefly presented the work of the KCS and its strong commitment towards the resocialization of prisoners. Gashi also stressed the strategic importance of EULEX's Correctional Unit as a trusted international partner for the KCS.
The Head of the European Union in Kosovo / EU Special Representative, Tomáš Szunyog, highlighted the role of the EU in co-financing the construction of this prison, whose construction was funded jointly by the EU and by Kosovo Government with EUR 14.5 million.
The Head of EULEX, Lars-Gunnar-Wigemark, pointed out how the high security prison is a state-of-art correctional facility, and recalled the longstanding support given by EULEX to the KCS through monitoring, mentoring and advising.
The Chief of EULEX’s Correctional unit, Ritva Vähäkoski, presented more in detail the work of her unit in providing sustainable prisoners’ assessment and rehabilitation in a safe and secure environment; in developing a professional senior management team; and in providing expertise to help develop the legal framework. Vähäkoski highlighted the remarkable progress achieved by the KCS but also recalled the challenges that still need to be addressed in some areas.
The visit concluded with a brief presentation of the functioning of the prison by its Acting Director, Xhevdet Maqastena, and with a tour of the facility, including the visitors’ area, where prisoners can meet with external visitors, as well as the space where the workshops take place, where prisoners have the possibility to work, thus benefitting from an essential tool for their future reintegration into the society.