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.
The Children of Prisoners Expert Group met in May 2022 in Kecskemet, Hungary. The dissemination of the main messages of the Council of Europe – Recommendation on a national level was stressed as it is the last year of these expert group. The importance of collaboration between different responsible agencies and authorities was emphasised in being a crucial prerequisite for an adequate implementation of the Recommendation in all over Europe.
The meeting was held in the regional court. Two presentations from the host countries were provided:
First, the Deputy President of the Regional Court, Criminal Devision of Kecskemét Court of Law, explained the Children’s rights during judicial proceedings. He mentioned the principles of necessity and graduality and processes of the Hungarians court system. Second, a presentation of a representative of the County Police Headquarters about the Police perspective on the Council of Europe’s Recommendation on Children of Prisoners, and the procedures of police was held. The local good relationships between the Prison, Court, and Police were visible during this expert group meeting. Besides that, the group discussed the last tasks for this year and agreed on an update to the Table of Recommendations and Practices for 2022, as well as the addition of a Covid chapter in the Guidance Implementation Report. A prison visit of the Bács-Kiskun County Remand Prison took place including a juvenile, mother-child and a light regime quarter. All in all, it was a very fruitful and effective meeting in a small group with and very hospitable hosts.
The expert group contributed with several speeches in November to the EuroPris Workshop in Leiden, Netherlands. Click here to view the page of the workshop.
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|
|Tibor Zakhar – Hungarian Prison Service|
|Kristin Tandberg – Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service|
|Ioana Morar – National Administration of Penitentiaries|
|Gill Robinson – Scottish Prison Service|
|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: Justina Dzienko|