For a full list of policy changes effected in part thanks to COPE and its members in 2015, please click here.

In 2014, COPE’s Italian partner Bambinisenzasbarre obtained the signature of a national Memorandum of Understanding, an agreement signed by the Italian Minister for Justice, Andrea Orlando, the National Ombudsman for Childhood and Adolescence and Bambinisenzasbarre, which aims to protect and fulfil the rights of the estimated 100,000 children of imprisoned parents across Italy. This charter, applicable in all Italian prisons, was signed for a period of two years and is due to be renewed this June.

“I wholeheartedly welcome the Italian Memorandum of Understanding. [It] is a remarkable and excellent initiative. I fully support the laudable results achieved in Italy, and the efforts underway in Croatia, the Netherlands and Argentina deserve to be brought to the attention of a wider audience and to be replicated.”
– Margaret Tuite, European Commission Coordinator for the Rights of the Child, at “Children with a parent in conflict with the law: What are their best interests? How can they be met?” 20 May 2016, Zagreb, Croatia

Renate Winter and Margaret Tuite at COPE 2016 conference in Zagreb

Drawing heavily on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the text sets out the rights and procedures agreed upon by the Justice Ministry, the Ombudsman and Bambinisenzasbarre that are necessary to protect the rights and development of children of imprisoned parents. Article 1 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 his/her child in respect of the child’s rights as laid out in Article 9 of the UNCRC.

The Memorandum also includes the recommendations made by the COPE network regarding 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 underage 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 one week of the arrest and on a regular basis from then on.

The Memorandum is an important example of the kind of positive and comprehensive action that can be achieved through lobbying of and partnership with national governments and organisations. COPE believes that the protocol is an important development that can be mirrored in other countries through similar agreements to improve the lives of children at a national level; COPE also believes that the Memorandum has great potential to effect change on a European level.

With this in mind, COPE has produced seven translations of the Memorandum of Understanding, which brings the total number of languages available to eight (see here for a full list of translated versions), in the hope that our members will join us in spreading this example of best practice for the rights of children with imprisoned parents.

Italian model Memorandum of Understanding

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