26th July 2013

With European Prisoners’ Children Campaign now becoming an established event for the month of June, Families Outside have been able to plan targeted events to raise awareness of the issues and encourage signatures to the petition for the European Parliament via Not My Crime, Still My Sentence.

This year, such events included two screenings of the US documentary Mothers of Bedford but we were also able to mobilise interest through our Parliamentary Cross-Party Group on Children & Families Affected by Imprisonment.

This group, hosted by Families Outside and convened by Mary Fee MSP, meets regularly to discuss issues of concern to children and families affected by imprisonment and, through this, to raise awareness of these issues in the Scottish and UK Parliaments and thereby motivate change.

To recognise the European Prisoners’ Children Campaign, the Cross-Party Group convened a special session addressed and attended by Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill.

The Group then had the opportunity to ask questions of the Minister, raising issues ranging from specific means of supporting children of prisoners to how the Minister planned to reduce the number of people going to prison in the first place. The Group also challenged the Minister for his tendency to focus the conversation on prisoners rather than on the children and families serving their own ‘sentence’ outside.

Scotland is fortunate to have a Government and Prison Service that are taking an increased interest in the impact of imprisonment on children and families. For example, in July the Scottish Government and Scottish Prison Service Joint Working Group on Parenting met for the first time to discuss concrete ways of implementing Scotland’s National Parenting Strategy, which include specific recommendations in relation to parental imprisonment.

Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell has taken a personal interest in the impact of imprisonment on children and plans to address the next Eurochips Network conference in Edinburgh in May 2014.

The European Prisoners’ Children Campaign has therefore proved to be a valuable tool for targeting events to raise awareness of children who suffer a parent’s imprisonment. We look forward to planning future events and broadening the scope of who can be reached in this way.

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Author: rmchristen