Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Children of prisoners

The Irish Penal Reform Trust, "an independent nongovernmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in the penal system, with prison as a last resort," has just released "Picking up the Pieces": The Rights and Needs of Children and Families Affected by Imprisonment.  It describes the effect of imprisonment on those who "must endure their own sentence, despite not having perpetrated any crime."  Some of the problems discussed are: the impact of separation, barriers to visitation and maintaining the parent-child relationship, stigmatization, mental health issues, and difficulties in reunification.  While the report's recommendations are not applicable to all countries, since it was written in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the impact of a parent's imprisonment is universal.  Among the more standard suggestions for reform is one that recommends:

The best interests of the child should be a key consideration in proceedings where a parent may be remanded or sentenced to custody.

The report also suggests that impact statements from children of parents about to be sentenced "would be one practical approach which would permit the voice of the child to be heard."

Interesting reading!


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