The Memorandum of Understanding on Children with Imprisoned Parents

The charter on children of imprisoned parents formally recognises the right of children to maintain direct contact with their detained parent—and requires that children be able to visit an imprisoned parent within a week of the arrest and on a regular basis from then on.”

In 2014, Italian network member, Bambinisenzasbarre, obtained the signature of a “Memorandum of Understanding”, an agreement between the Italian Minister for Justice, the National Ombudsman for Childhood and Adolescence and Bambinisenzasbarre, regarding the fulfilment and protection of the rights of children of imprisoned parents. Bambinisenzasbarre’s President, Lia Sacerdote, signed the Memorandum, which is valid for 2 years, on 21 March 2014. The charter is applicable in all Italian prisons and certainly represents a significant milestone for the work of the Italian charity. It is due to be renewed on 21 March 2016.

Article 1 of the Memorandum covers decisions regarding judicial authorities who are encouraged to take into account the rights and needs of any underage children of an arrested or detained person who still has parental responsibility; giving priority to alternative measures to pre-trial detention. Authorities are required to provide contact between a pre-trial detainee and their child in respect of the child’s rights as laid out in Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Memorandum also includes the recommendations made by the Children of Prisoners Europe network with regards visiting conditions and provisions for children of imprisoned parents, such as providing a suitably equipped children’s space in all visiting rooms, complete with resources for babies (bottle warmers, changing tables, etc.) and young children (toys, drawing tables). The signatories also commit to implementing all necessary actions to ensure that the location of the prison for parents of minor children is compatible with guaranteeing direct contact between child and parent during the sentence. The Memorandum also requires that a child be able to visit his/her imprisoned parent within a week of the arrest and on a regular basis from then on.

The full text in its various languages can be accessed here:

“For the first time in Europe and in Italy, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by the Minister for Justice, the Ombudsman for Children and Adolescence and by the not-for-profit organisation Bambinisenzasbarre which represents the 100,000 children who cross the Italian prisons gates every day. The Charter of Children of Detained Parents formally recognises the right of children to maintain direct contact with their detained parent and, at the same time, it reiterates the prisoner’s right to parenting. The “Charter of Children of Detained Parents” is a document which commits the penitentiary system to change various aspects of their relations with, and treatment of, the detainee, taking into consideration his/her parental role, and to change the way they receive individuals, with greater awareness of the innocent, free children who are so often burdened by marginalisation, prejudices, financial difficulties and the shame caused by the detention of their parent.” 
– Lia Sacerdote, President, Bambinisenzasbarre

“Bambinisenzasbarre’s Memorandum of Understanding is a really signficant milestone both for the Italian organisation and for the whole Children of Prisoners Europe network. We are very proud of the achievement of our Italian partner in getting such a commitment from their Government and we hope that this step forward will not only spark further improvements for children of imprisoned parents in Italy but will also trigger similar commitments in our other member countries.”
– Lucy Gampell, President, Children of Prisoners Europe