Given that over 800,000 children in the EU have a parent in prison, legal and judicial awareness of the issues facing children of prisoners and their rights is of paramount importance. In many cases, the most important stage of a family’s involvement with the criminal justice system will be at the trial and sentencing phase, where the decision to commit a parent to prison can have far-reaching, negative consequences for children, including, in some instances, the latter being taken into care. Many countries, however, do not take sufficient account of the impact of parental imprisonment on children or of the specific circumstance and needs facing children of prisoners.
As recommendations born out of the COPING project concluded, more needs to be done to ensure that courts and the judiciary take the best interests of the child into account when sentencing a parent. Alongside more long-term attempts to influence policy and to ensure that formalised mechanisms for the protection of child rights in parental sentencing are available, COPE has produced an awareness-raising video aimed specifically at lawyers and the judiciary to help increase the visibility of child rights when parents are sentenced to prison.
The video explains the negative impact of parental imprisonment on children and sets out some of the key UNCRC rights triggered by a parent’s trial. The video also reinforces the need for sentencing decisions to be made in the best interests of the child and sets out some practical advice on how to protect children when sentencing parents, namely: to consider non-custodial sentences where appropriate; otherwise, to sentence to prisons close to the family home; and, to sentence in a way that protects the child-parent bond wherever possible.
This video is being disseminated throughout Europe to legal networks, institutions, and organisations, with the aim of raising the awareness of children’s rights in relation to their parent’s trials amongst lawyers, the judiciary, and other key players in the criminal justice system.
This video has been co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Program of the European Union. The contents of the videos are the sole responsibility of Children of Prisoners Europe and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.