2nd October 2004

During the recent ad hoc Conference of Directors of Prison Administration (CDPA) and Probation Service, organized jointly by the Council of Europe and the Italian Ministry of Justice in November, the European Committee for Children of Imprisoned Parents (EUROCHIPS) made a series of recommendations in light of the updating of the European Prison Rules. Presented in Rome by the Milan-based association Bambinisenzasbarre, a EUROCHIPS member, the recommendations highlight the importance of maintaining family ties.

They read as follows:
Factor in the child’s place of residence when determining the penal establishment for remand and sentenced prisoners, as well as for all transfers.
Travel expenses should be available from public funding to pay for journeys to and from prison visits for children and caretakers from disadvantaged families.
Every prison establishment should have special child-friendly visits areas, with age-appropriate play equipment, nursery facilities and resources available to children visiting both fathers and mothers.
Visits: in addition to a minimum of two weekly visits recommended for children (a minimum duration of two hours), extended half-day or day-long visits should be available, with both parents present.
Alternative sanctions and measures of imprisonment, including house arrest, must be envisaged for parents with young children, particularly when the forced separation risks causing serious and irreparable trauma to the child and no one from within the family unit can take care of the child.

Andrew Coyle, director of the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College in London and one of three scientific experts from the Council for Penological Cooperation (PC-CP) overseeing the updating of the Prison Rules, agreed to take the recommendations into consideration. The final text will be completed by late 2005, then submitted to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers for adoption in early 2006. The Prison Rules are not binding for Member States. In April 2004, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recommended to the Committee of Ministers that they draft a European Prisons Charter with the European Union that sets forth the rights and responsibilities of prisoners.
Additional topics discussed during the conference were long-term sentences and the importance of alternative forms of punishment.

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Author: rmchristen