On a given day, 800,000 children in the European Union alone have an imprisoned parent. This figure rises to 1 million over the course of a year. Parental imprisonment can have a profound impact on a child before, during and after imprisonment, including feelings of shame, guilt and stigma, and the experience of discrimination, bullying and social exclusion. It can also contribute to financial difficulties and instability at home.
Throughout the month of June, COPE runs an annual cross-European campaign entitled ‘Not My Crime, Still My Sentence’ (#notmycrimestillmysentence). COPE is a Europe-wide initiative on behalf of children with an imprisoned parent, and IPRT is proud to be an affiliate member.
- Raising Awareness of Rights and Needs of Children Affected by Parental Imprisonment
Focus 1: Positive solutions for improving prison visits for children & young people
Targeting prison governors, prison staff and regional or national prison services, the campaign encourages these key stakeholders to improve prison visits for children by collecting positive solutions for improving the prison visits environment, through careful and considered consultation with the children they work with. These strategies and solutions can then be provided to the stakeholders.
Focus 2: Supporting “out of reach” children of prisoners in the community
The second focus targets children who do not visit their imprisoned parent and who are not currently in contact with members of COPE for support. COPE and its members are exploring new ways to find such children in their communities, with a particular focus on schools.
- Effect Policy Change for these Children on the Local, National and European levels
Last year COPE's Italian partner Bambinsenzabarre signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Italian Justice Ministry and the Italian Ombudsman that formally recognises children’s right to a relationship with their imprisoned parent, and the parent’s right to play an active parenting role. Issues such as frequency of visits, training of judges, and staff and data collection are also addressed in this agreement. This agreement draws heavily on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). COPE believes this agreement may be the first of its kind and is monitoring how it is put into practice. It also could be the precedent needed to bring about Europe-wide change and also further afield.
How to Get Involved:
COPE are encouraging members to carry out awareness-raising activities in their local schools, and to carry out advocacy with regional or national educational authorities using model letters that will be translated and disseminated to members.
If you are part of a public institution, school, prison national human rights institution or law enforcement agency, COPE asks that you get in touch with them to find out how you can support the 2017 “Not My Crime, Still My Sentence” campaign. See contact details below.
- COPE 2017 Campaign: ‘Not my Crime, Still my Sentence’
- See here for Positive solutions for improving prison visits for children compiled by COPE through interviews with children of prisoners
- The Guardian: ‘Not my crime, still my sentence: how jailing parents punishes children’
- Watch ‘800,000 Voices’ video here
- IPRT Report (2012): "Picking Up the Pieces": The Rights and Needs of Children and Families Affected by Imprisonment
- For more information on the issue, click here