Research: Children with Imprisoned Parents in Latvia

Categories: COPENews2015

Anna Krasanova LL.M, Senior Lawyer of the Children’s Rights Division of the Ombudsman’s Office of the Republic of Latvia, has published research entitled “Research of the Situation Regarding the Right of the Children of Imprisoned Persons to Contact with Their Parents in Latvia”.

In a bid to assess whether the situation of children with imprisoned parents in Latvia complies with human rights standards, as well as to raise awareness on the needs and rights of these children, the Ombudsman’s Office of the Republic of Latvia conducted research between 2014 and 2016, which included interviewing imprisoned parents, children and foster families.

The initial survey in 2014 interviewed 430 prisoners across all prisons in Latvia; 44 children in municipal orphanages across the country were also interviewed. The imprisoned parents were asked about the number and age of their children, the place of residence of the child and about the types and frequency of contact. Several questions were devoted to finding out if the child visits the parent in prison, if the child experiences emotional turmoil and how the latter is expressed. The respondents were also asked to provide an assessment of prison visiting rooms, as well as express an opinion on the benefits of maintaining contact through telecommunication programmes, such as Skype.

The children interviewed were asked how they had found out about their parent’s imprisonment; whether they maintained contact (if so, how and how often); and whether they would like to visit their parent in prison. They were also asked if they felt emotional distress due to their parent’s imprisonment, and how they express this. The children who visit their parents in prison were asked to provide an assessment of the visiting rooms and the attitude of the staff towards them.

The research concludes with recommendations, including:

  1. The regulatory framework for the implementation of the rights of imprisoned persons to maintain contact with their children should be improved;
  2. Guardians and foster families should promote contact between a child and his/her imprisoned parent;
  3. Improvements to visiting rooms are needed in order for them to be child-friendly. Children should have access to bathrooms at all times. During longer meetings, children should be provided with an opportunity to go outside for some fresh air;
  4. When a parent is imprisoned, the Prison Administration should assess and take into account the prisoner’s family situation, place of residence, as well as whether the family can visit the prisoner where he/she is;
    4.1. If the prisoner has submitted a request to be transferred in order to be closer to their place of residence and to allow the family to visit the prisoner, the Prison Administration has a duty to assess the prisoner’s request thoroughly and, if a request for transfer is refused, to give adequate reason;
  5. Local governments are encouraged to assess and provide support for families with children who wish to visit their father or mother in prison by reimbursing travel expenses;
  6. Prisons should provide greater psychological support to imprisoned parents who experience difficulties during their time with their child;
  7. Prisons are encouraged to actively plan and organise events for the imprisoned parents and their children in order to facilitate their implementation of the right to contact and emphasise its importance.

This research has been summarised and translated into English and can be viewed and downloaded here: Research into the Situation of Children with Imprisoned Parents in Latvia.

Author: Hannah Lynn