October 2016

“I use Skype to speak to my 11 year old son” – the effective use of this telecommunications tool was one of the first things we learnt when speaking to a female inmate from the Śledczy Grochów prison in Warsaw. The fifteen-minute weekly Skype session is granted in addition to the one hour face-to-face visits on Sundays. While in Warsaw, COPE met with representatives from the General Prison and Probation Administration Headquarters, which will open the door for us for future direct contact and potential collaboration. In order to address the issue from a wider, child rights focus, COPE also met with UNICEF Poland, who were interested and open to the topic. During this meeting, Bambinisenzasbarre’s Italian model Memorandum of Understanding on children with imprisoned parents was met with great interest, and UNICEF is currently exploring if and how it might be possible to promote this document on the national level in Poland.

In Krakow, the Regional Inspectorate of the Prison Service and the NGO Malopolskie Stowarzyszenie Probacja organised a special meeting devoted to the integration of children and families. COPE shared experiences, expertise and good practice examples from across Europe vis-à-vis maintaining parental ties between prisoners and their children, reaching an audience of approximately 60 prison managers, penitentiary experts, probation officers, representatives of city councils and aid institutions, academia and other NGOs. The panel discussion provided an excellent opportunity to exchange on practical solutions and possibilities in Poland and was followed by a visit to the historic Montelupich remand prison.

The next day, the Ignatianum Academy offered us the opportunity to address approximately 50 students specialising in Resocialization Pedagogy with Social Prevention, and we now await input from the participating students for the syllabus of a potential online course.

Author: Hannah Lynn