Network member Pact launches ‘Our Voice’: The Charter for Children & Young People with a family member in prison
Pact has teamed up with a group of young people between the ages of 13 and 17 who have experienced the imprisonment of a family member, to find out what changes they would like to see in the Criminal Justice System and what Pact can do to help make their voices heard. As a result of a series of workshops, led by 21-year-old Ebony Brown, these young people have created their very own Charter, known as ‘Our Voice’, which lays out in a clear and accessible four-page document the various rights they would like to see fulfilled. These range from the desire to see their homes protected during the arrest of a parent and the request for more support and information throughout the imprisonment process, to the right not to be judged for standing by their parents and the right to be considered when the location of the parent’s prison is being decided upon.
The rights fall under seven categories:
The right for our homes to be respected
The right to be informed
The right to be heard
The right to have a choice
The right not to be judged
The right to be offered emotional support
The right to be respected
The Charter was launched in London on 8 September 2014 and the event was attended by judges, magistrates, prison governors, local authorities, the police, schools, and a wide range of other organisations.
At the launch, Ebony said: “As adults, don’t you think we deserve better? To be treated better? Not to be judged? To be respected? Not to feel alienated from authority? And if we feel better, about ourselves and about authority – won’t this be better for society?”
Pact is inviting people to sign up to the Charter to express their support for it, and to show their commitment to making their own practice “charter friendly”. All individuals and organisations can view and sign the Charter here.
“The young people’s requests are modest, and in effect, they are simply asking for the rights under the UN to be respected – but as we all know – this requires positive action and commitment on behalf of a wide range of agencies and individuals. We are working to win hearts and minds – and build awareness and support. This will be a focal point for our advocacy work on behalf of children and young people in the UK. We don’t expect any quick wins – not during a time of budget austerity – but we are aiming to build a mass of support over the years to come so that the charter becomes an accepted benchmark.” Andy Keen-Downs, Chief Executive, Pact
Pact has been working with families of prisoners in England and Wales since 2001. The charity supports children and families of prisoners inside prisons, in prison visits centres and within the community. Pact estimates that 200,000 children will experience the imprisonment of a parent this year. The idea for the Charter was inspired by the San Francisco Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents – which has been copied by a number of states across the US. It is hoped that ‘Our Voice’ will help vocalise and publicise the issues that children of prisoners themselves deem important and will raise greater awareness on the issue.
The Charter reflects closely some of the results drawn from the recent EU-funded Coping project, where prisoners’ children’s needs and rights in four European countries were studied. The Coping project’s final report can be viewed and downloaded here.
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