15th June 2004

France’s Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme (CNCDH), a human rights advisory body and watchdog group, is backing a study on prisoners’ rights, approved March 11, 2004. The study aims to end the legal and judicial void surrounding prisoners and penal establishments while highlighting the basic rights currently in effect at the national and international level. Maintaining family ties, as stipulated in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, is the focus of one of five key sections in the study. . The CNCDH maintains that all decisions made with respect to sentenced detainees should work to foster family stability, particularly if children are involved; other factors favoring the inmate’s re-entry into society (training, employment, etc.) should be taken into account as well. The CNCDH also recommends that remand prisoners for whom investigations have been completed and are awaiting sentencing be incarcerated close to home to facilitate maintaining close family ties. With respect to visits, the CNCDH feels that remand prisoners should be eligible for the same visits schemes as sentenced detainees – extended visits that run several hours or two successive half-days, both during the week and on weekends.
The child’s best interest must be the prevailing factor in all decisions made concerning the maintaining of family ties between imprisoned parents and their children. Each year in France , between 70,000 and 80,000 children are separated from an imprisoned parent. The imprisonment of parents, notably mothers, with young children must be construed as an exception and, in accordance with EU recommendations, limited to situations in which the mother has harmed her children or is seen as a threat to them. According to the CNCDH, young children living in prisons with their mothers, the age limit of which is currently 18 months, should be allowed to remain with their mothers until age 3, as in some other European countries. Preparation should be made for separation, which needs to be progressive.

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Author: rmchristen