The Council of Europe issued in April 2018 new policy guidelines aimed at safeguarding the rights and interests of children of imprisoned parents: Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)5 on Children of imprisoned parents. The Committee of Ministers adopted the Recommendation recalling that children with imprisoned parents are entitled to the same rights as other children, including regular contact with their parents, except if it is considered contrary to the child´s best interests. Maintaining child-parent relations can positively impact not only the child, but also the imprisoned parent, prison staff and environment, and by better preparing prisoner for release and social reintegration, also protect society in general. Following this initiative there was a strong call from EuroPris members to start an expert group that will support Member States in the implementation of this recommendation.
Due to Covid-19 the Children of Prisoners expert group could only meet online in the course of 2020. A total of five online meetings took place throughout the year. During the meetings the experts shared their experiences on the impact of Covid-19 on the relations between imprisoned parents and their children and how this was addressed through alternative means, like video conferencing. Since the main focus of the group is on the implementation of the Council of Europe Recommendation on Children of imprisoned parents, the group has worked on drafting three documents to support member states in the implementation process.
First of all the members worked on a report addressing four areas in relation to the Recommendation:
Second, a Table of Recommendations has been developed. This table contains concrete good practice examples from the member states of the expert group for each article of the Recommendation. This will provide very practical guidance on how to transform the Recommendation into practice.
Finally, the collection of data on the number of children affected by the imprisonment of their parents is an issue of high interest and addressed very differently throughout Europe. A Data Collection Matrix has been developed that reflects the current practice in the member states with regard to this data collection.
The first Children of Prisoners Expert group meeting took place on 3-4 October 2019 in Cork and it was kindly hosted by the Irish Prison Service. Various issues concerning the children of imprisoned parents across the Europe were discussed.
The Family Relations expert group was concluded with a workshop in 2018, where the group presented a comprehensive Good Practice Collection, which was drafted together with Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE). The Collection comprises chapters on visiting facilities, community involvement, communication, intervention programmes and staff training. Click here to view more about the expert group on Family Relations.
The expert group Children of Prisoners developed the following tools to support member states in the implementation of the CoE Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)5 to provide guidance in this process:
|Pat Dawson (Chair) – Irish Prison Service|
|Athena Demetriou – Ministry of Justice and Public Order: Department of Prisons|
|Justina Dzienko – Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection|
|Tibor Zakhar – Hungarian Prison Service|
|Angelika Beyer – Ministry of Justice of Austria|
|Marjan Wijn – Dutch Custodial Institutions Agency|
|Kristin Tandberg – Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service|
|Ioana Morar – National Administration of Penitentiaries|
|Gill Robinson – Scottish Prison Service|
|Jan Tutoky – General Directorate of the Corps of Prison and Court Guard|
|Maya Wolinder Lind – Swedish Prison and Probation Service|
|Anne-Gaelle Fabry – Belgian Prison Service|
|Madeleine Kattel – Children of Prisoners in Europe (COPE)|
|Viviane Schekter – Children of Prisoners in Europe (COPE)|
|EuroPris Group Coordinator: Kirsten Hawlitschek|
Supported by the Justice Programme of the European Union