The “Not my crime, still my sentence” campaign in June 2015 consisted of the launch of the website www.notmycrimestillmysentence.org. The 2015 main campaign tool, a new campaign animation in five languages (English, French, Dutch, Italian, and Norwegian) entitled “800,000 voices”, was a great success and was avidly shared on social media. The video scratches the surface of the many different emotions that the 800,000 children in Europe experience during their parents’ imprisonment. The reactions these children have shows the complexity of emotions experienced and gives us a starting point to begin to listen.
In 2015, COPE partnered with the French section of ethical cosmetics company LUSH. Their fantastic Charity Pot moisturiser currently sports the COPE logo and the company’s financial support helped professionalise the campaign. On 13 June 2015, LUSH hosted a “Charity Party” for COPE at their Rue de Renard boutique in Paris where COPE staff raised awareness for the campaign, handed out information flyers and projected the French-language video, “800,000 voix”.
As part of the campaign, COPE also designed and printed 500 beautiful “pledge cards” in six languages, each with a child’s drawing on the front. COPE members worked with the children they support to fill out the back of each card with one change or wish they’d like to see to improve their experiences of having a parent in prison. These wishes ranged from “longer visits” and “visits outside school hours so I don’t have to miss class” to “I wish I could play video games with my Dad” and “I wish my Mum could have special leave to come to my birthday party”. The pledge cards were sent to those MEPs who are Child Rights Champions and part of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights, as a follow-up to paragraph 13 of the European Parliament resolution on the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
As a result of her support of the issue and 2013 campaign, COPE met with Jean Lambert MEP in Brussels in 2015 and delivered a Written Question to the European Commission, which Jean tabled on behalf of the network. The question, entitled “The multiple ways in which a parent’s imprisonment adversely impacts the rights of children and the EU’s commitment to ensuring that these rights are respected”, focused on the right of children to stay in contact with parents as a criterion for the social rehabilitation of their prisoner-parents in relation to Council Framework Decision for the transfer of prisoners 2008/909/JHA. It also inquired about follow-up to paragraph 13 in the European Parliament Resolution on the 25th anniversary of the UNCRC, which addresses children with imprisoned parents, referring to COPE statistics. You can view the full Question here: Question for written answer.
In July, just after the 2015 campaign, the European Commission published its Written Response. The response from Ms Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality for the Commission, highlights the Commission’s consideration that children of imprisoned parents are in a particularly vulnerable situation. It also specifically mentions Children of Prisoners Europe and the two recent Operating Grants the network has been awarded in order to promote vital awareness-raising and sharing of good practice. In relation to Council Framework Decision 2008/909/JHA, the Commission underlines the fact that all relevant elements may be brought forward during the consideration of a sentenced person for transfer, such as the person’s attachment to the executing State, including whether their children live in that State.