21st November 2009

Relais Enfants-Parents Cameroun (REPCAM) organized a two-day conference in June in Yaoundé entitled “Children and Imprisoned Parents.” Some 120 participants attended the event, including a representative from the Justice Ministry, the director of Yaoundé Prison and prison officers.

One aspect of the conference revolved around the training of prison officers and awareness-raising on the importance of working to support family ties. Alain Bouregba, director of the Fédération des Relais Enfants-Parents and vice president of Eurochips, spoke about the crucial role that maintaining family times plays in helping to buffer the trauma and emotional stress associated with the imprisonment of a parent.
REPCAM’s support initiatives for imprisoned mothers who are pregnant, including medical care, were presented. During a question and answer session, the issue of minors in Cameroon was raised; 60 percent of street children are the offspring of imprisoned parents. The Socio-Educational Center for imprisoned juveniles and children with imprisoned parents at Yaoundé Prison—which is becoming increasingly more active with REPCAM’s involvement (since September 2007)—was spotlighted as playing a role in grounding children in basic skills, with classes in reading and writing, arithmetic and other primary subjects.

The teachers, who are frequently inmates, are supported by REPCAM, which also supplies notebooks and school supplies to the children. Over 150 students are currently enrolled. Some 60 percent of the imprisoned minors attend the school. Reasons cited for lack of attendance include health problems and nutritional deficiencies.

On the eve of the conference, REPCAM organized a discussion at the Yaoundé Prison between the prison service, REPCAM, the Fédération des Relais Enfants Parents and the NGO AGIRabcd de France.

Discussions underscored the importance of working to preserve family ties; the need for people from various sectors to work together; and the importance of paying special attention to the needs of imprisoned women who are pregnant, specifically with respect to medical and psychological care and nutrition.

Participants highlighted the legal dispositions in Cameroon that protect pregnant offenders, notably Article 27 of the Code Pénal (alinéa 2), that stipulates that if a woman who is given a prison sentence is pregnant or has just given birth, she cannot serve her prison term until six weeks after the birth. After the two-day conference, REPCAM organized a gala event in an effort to raise funds to build a special visits area at Yaoundé Prison. Artists, comedians, and other celebrities from Cameroon attended. There was also a fashion show.

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Author: rmchristen