The Council for Penological Co-operation (PC-CP) of the Council of Europe has published a Summary Meeting Report following the 14th meeting of the Working Group in Strasbourg, 30 January – 1 February 2017, in which two COPE experts participated to draw attention to the issue of children with imprisoned parents. Other topics discussed during the three-day meeting were restorative justice, data collection and a revision of the commentary to the European Prison Rules. COPE welcomes the PC-CP’s interest in children affected by parental imprisonment and the chance to work on a Committee of Ministers Recommendation on the issue. COPE also welcomes the Recommendation’s accompanying report, which will include responses from a questionnaire in relation to the areas covered by the Recommendation, as well as information from COPE on good practice from across Europe. The questionnaire, drafted by COPE, has been sent to prison services in the 47 Member States and the Council of Europe is beginning to receive responses.
Relevant section in Summary Meeting Report:
II. Children of imprisoned parents
- The participants took note of the presentations made by Ms Kate Philbrick and Ms Maria Wolleswinkel, scientific experts regarding the situation with children of imprisoned parents. They discussed possible ways to address this question, agreed that a Committee of Ministers recommendation would be the best approach, nevertheless they also agreed that the situation and protection of rights and interests of these children require a multi-agency approach as the prison administrations cannot do more than improving the quality of visits and contacts of such children with their imprisoned parent. They considered a draft preliminary text of a Committee of Ministers recommendation on the subject as drafted by the scientific experts and decided that the issue of children of imprisoned parents should be dealt with from the point of view of protecting the best interests of the child. The notion “child” should coincide with the definition contained in the UN Convention on the rights of the child. It was also decided that infant children living with their parent in prison should also be covered by the recommendation. It was also agreed that the recommendation should suggest practical measures to be implemented, based on good practices existing in different countries. It was also decided that the recommendation will not be accompanied by a commentary but by a report describing the situation in Europe.
- They further considered and revised a draft questionnaire to be sent to the member states. It was decided that the questionnaire should be sent to the prison administrations only, as COPE already has information regarding the initiatives undertaken by NGOs and other associations. The revised questionnaire should be sent out by 15 February and the replies should be received by the end of March 2017.