As a primer to COPE’s upcoming conference in Zagreb next May, representatives of the COPE network contributed to a conference on February 2 marking the close of the Croatian two-year EU-funded MAME project, piloted and implemented by the NGO RODA for imprisoned mothers separated from their children at Pozega Prison (read more here). One of the findings of the MAME project was that 50 to 60 per cent of children do not visit their mothers in prison regularly, with some living over 200 kilometers away. The project was instrumental in bringing these children into contact with their parents. RODA’s outreach on a national level in implementing the MAME project was impressive, reaching a variety of sectors—occupational, health, social welfare, probation services and prison services, with training for prison staff on prisoners’ children’s issues a main activity.
Given the recent parliamentary elections and uncertainty over the new government’s direction, RODA’s conference provided a good opportunity to highlight to decision-makers the importance of the issues which children affected by parental imprisonment frequently face. Liz Ayre, COPE director, underscored the importance of the issue and emphasised the rights of prisoners’ children, providing an EU perspective by highlighting measures and initiatives supporting these children at EU level. COPE board member Kate Philbrick OBE presented on the Playstation support scheme for children at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow, while highlighting other support initiatives for children affected by parental incarceration across Europe. COPE member Maja Gabelica, Deputy Children’s Ombudswoman Croatia, spoke about the needs of prisoners’ children. The Croatian media reported widely on the conference and the issue, highlighting COPE’s presence.