Areas of Work

Children of Prisoners

Children are deeply affected when a parent is imprisoned. Yet millions of affected children worldwide are overlooked at every stage of the criminal justice process, and there are no international standards on how countries should act to protect their rights and welfare.

Children can face stigma from friends and others in the community. They can experience difficulties in maintaining contact with incarcerated parents, and face financial hardship. Practice around the world varies considerably, and there is much potentially good practice, such as police officers who conduct arrests in child-friendly ways, judges who consider the impact of potential sentences on children, prison administrations that organise child-friendly visiting arrangements and schools or NGOs that support the child on the outside.

QUNO has published groundbreaking research on this issue since 2005, highlighting practices worldwide relating to children living in prison with a parent, as well as to children who remain outside during parental incarceration, and more recently on issues relating to children of parents facing the death penalty. QUNO was also a partner in the COPING Project, a three-year investigation looking at the mental health of children of prisoners.

Developing out of this research, QUNO has also pioneered work that highlights issues affecting the children of parents sentenced to death or executed. These children are the hidden victims of the death penalty, often experiencing the sentencing or execution of their father or mother as severe psychological and emotional trauma. These devastating consequences of the death penalty tend to receive little attention in criminal justice systems and the children are often left unsupported. We have published several significant pieces of research on this topic and continue to raise the issue at the international level.

Ongoing Activities

  • Developing awareness, at national and international levels, of the rights and well-being of children whose parents are in detention and of children whose parents have been sentenced to death or executed.
  • Working with the UN human rights mechanisms and treaty bodies, especially the Committee on the Rights of the Child, to further acknowledge the rights of these children and to promote good practice.
  • Disseminating the findings and recommendations of the COPING project research.
  • Convening a Child Rights Connect working group of partner organisations working on children of incarcerated parents around the world and maintaining this working group’s database of relevant Committee on the Rights of concluding observations 
  • Working with partner organisations to provide information about children detained in prison with a parent into the UN’s global study on children deprived of their liberty.

 

Recent Timeline Events

March 2017

QUNO at the Human Rights Council: a focus on children of parents facing the death penalty as victims of torture

On 1st March 2017, the annual High Level Panel on the question of the death penalty was held at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council. This year’s panel focussed on how the death penalty relates to torture.

During the panel, Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment highlighted the impact of the death penalty on children:

The death penalty is… first of all, in my view, a question of life and how we define ourselves as human beings, as States and as an international community. Do we really want to retain a retributive system, deliberately inflicting pain and anguish on convicts, on their parents, on their spouses, on their children?... Or do we prefer to define ourselves on different terms, focusing not only on the inherent dignity of convicts, victims and families but also on the dignity and moral authority of our human society as a whole? ”

In light of the panel’s focus on torture, we submitted a written and oral statement at this session of the Council, highlighting that the sentencing to death or execution of a parent leads to a violation of the child’s right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (CIDT) or torture under international law. 

The written statement can be found here.

The oral statement, delivered by Catherine Baker, Programme Assistant for Human Rights and Refugees at the High Level Panel, can be found at 2.09.45 on the video of the panel.

Related Areas of Work

January 2017

QUNO moderated a panel event on the rights of children of incarcerated parents

QUNO organized a panel event, "The Rights of Children of Incarcerated Parents: Replicating good practice from Italy," that took place at the UN on 1 February 2017. The event was hosted by the Permanent Missions to the UN of Italy and Argentina, and the Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents. 

The Italian NGO Bambinisenzasbarre signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Justice and the National Ombudswoman for Childhood and Adolescence, aimed at the fulfilment of the rights of children of incarcerated parents throughout the country. Steps are being taken to replicate this good practice in other countries. The event highlighted how this Memorandum and the partnership behind it work in practice, how this is being replicated in Argentina and lessons for replication in other States seeking to protect the rights of these children. 

Further information is available in the invitation flyer below.

 

 

 

Related Files

Related Areas of Work

December 2016

Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty

QUNO is closely following and inputting information into a Global Study on Children Deprived of their Liberty.

The Study will shed light on the scale and conditions of children deprived of their liberty, identifying good practices and making recommendations for effective measures to prevent human rights violations against children in detention and reduce the number of children deprived of liberty.

As called for in UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/69/157, the Study will map out, through monitoring and evaluation analysis, how existing international laws and standards are being implemented on the ground. Through comprehensive data collection, it will also provide a consolidation of good practices and the formulation of recommendations, to support the work of States, UN agencies and other stakeholders to more effectively implement international standards. Manfred Nowak has been appointed to lead the Study, overseeing the development of an in-depth, comprehensive global report to be presented to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at its 73rd regular session in 2018.

The Study is relevant to our work on children of prisoners because it will cover all forms of deprivation of children’s liberty, making it an important opportunity to raise awareness of situations where children are detained with an incarcerated parent. At the first meeting between Manfred Nowak and the NGO Panel working on this issue, children detained with incarcerated parents was specifically listed as one of the topics to be included in the Study. It is now important that all civil society actors working on this issue coordinate effectively and contribute the necessary material to ensure that the situation of these children is fully and effectively incorporated into the Study.

All NGOs working on children of incarcerated parents are encouraged to get involved. Here are some ways to participate:

  • Join the NGO panel to be part of the coordinated advocacy campaign around the Study;
  • Send details and links of any of the following to Catherine Baker at the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) (cbaker@quno.ch) for inclusion in the Study and upcoming advocacy work:
  1. Relevant publications and examples of good practice;
  2. Academics working on this issue who should be included on the Study’s Academic Panel;
  3. Details of any relevant events in the next two years related to children detained with their parents.

 

 

Related Areas of Work