“Children Outside Prison”, the year-long project in which COPE participated with Türkiye Çocuklara Yeniden Ozgürlük Vakfı (TCYOV, Youth Re-autonomy Foundation of Turkey), a COPE affiliate, came to a close in January. Founded in 1992, TCYOV is the largest independent non-governmental organization in Turkey working in the field of juvenile justice. Through its advocacy and fieldwork, TCYOV has changed the way children affected by parental imprisonment are perceived in Turkey, having stimulated and supported new thinking and approaches to policy and practice for children of prisoners, and in highlighting the need to respect European and international standards.
TCYOV’s project “Children Outside Prison” developed as an extension of its project “Children Inside Prison”. Currently being implemented in eight women’s prisons in various cities in Turkey and targeting the some 530 children aged 0 to 6 living with imprisoned mothers, the Children Inside Prison project aims to provide the logistical development of kindergartens and prison play rooms. In Turkey, separate units for mothers and babies do not exist in prisons; there are nurseries and playrooms. The nurseries and playrooms have facilities, including toys, for children, but toys are banned from the dormitories where children reside with their mothers. Children do not have their own beds but share beds with their mothers. Children aged 3 to 6 may go to prison kindergartens.
During the “Children Inside Prison” project, imprisoned mothers expressed concern over their children from whom they are separated; TCYOV responded by going beyond the project’s original defined scope and developed the “Children Outside Prison” initiative, to explore the situation for children separated from a parent in prison, estimated to be 245,000 in number [The latter is a conservative estimate, based on a prisoner parent rate of 1.3 offspring per prisoner established in France by the national institute of statistics; TCYOV estimates for the number of children separated from an imprisoned parent in Turkey are significantly higher] and to work to develop and implement support systems for children of prisoners. The “Children Outside Prison” project kicked off with a learning exchange highlighting good practice for children of prisoners in France, Belgium and Italy.
Both “Children Inside Prison” and “Children Outside Prison” emphasized that children affected by parental incarceration should receive public attention; that violations of their rights should be mitigated through advocacy and that NGOs and other related institutions should cooperate for the well-being of these children both inside and outside prison. The challenges to establishing these kinds of efforts and partnerships were highlighted at the closure meeting organized in January 2017 for the “Children Outside Prison” project, featuring cross-sectoral delegates, and national and European partners, including COPE founder Alain Bouregba and COPE Director Liz Ayre. The tools developed over the course of the project, including a good practice document on parental incarceration and information pamphlets for imprisoned mothers/children and for prison staff, were launched at the conference. TCYOV and COPE are working to disseminate the results of the “Children Outside Prison” project across Europe and internationally. The Turkish edition of the COPE Network publication “Children with Imprisoned Parents: European Perspectives” will help share and implement good practice initiatives to prisons in Turkey, benefiting children and imprisoned parents nationwide. The launch of the book in Turkish and TCYOV’s role in its dissemination strengthens the organisation’s professional grounding in its work to advance children’s rights in Turkey.
Find Turkish-language resources below: