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, as well as 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.

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.
  • Disseminating the findings and recommendations of the COPING project research.

Recent Timeline Events

November 2016

Read QUNO's latest Geneva Reporter newsletter

QUNO's November 2016 issue of the Geneva Reporter newsletter is now available online. The latest issue features: an interview with our Food & Sustainability Representative on her upcoming expert consultation on the role of governments in supporting small-scale farmers and ensuring food security, a report on the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, news about our inequality side-event during Geneva Peace Week, and a QUNO Q&A  with 2016 Geneva Summer School participant Ayah Abubasheer.

The newsletter also includes a one-page insert featuring QUNO's perspective on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The full publication is available below.

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September 2016

QUNO delivers oral statement on the rights of children of incarcerated parents at the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council

QUNO delivered an oral statement on the rights of children of incarcerated parents at the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The statement marked the five-year anniversary of the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s Day of General Discussion on Children of Incarcerated Parents (held in September 2011), and recognised the importance of this event in contributing to improved international and national standards on the issue. 

QUNO called upon the Council to focus on implementing the relevant resolutions and to consider the situation of children of parents sentenced to death or executed ahead of the upcoming General Assembly resolution on moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

Catherine Baker, Programme Assistant for Human Rights and Refugees delivered the statement during the General Debate discussion on Friday 16th September


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September 2016

5 years of progress on the children of incarcerated parents: launch of a new resource

To mark five years since the Committee on the Rights of the Child held a Day of General Discussion (DGD) on Children of Incarcerated Parents, Child Rights Connect’s Working Group on this issue is launching a new database of relevant recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. As convenor of Child Rights Connect’s Working Group, QUNO has complied this database to highlight what has been achieved since the DGD, and to encourage further progress in protecting the rights of these children around the world.

The 2011 DGD was an important moment in raising the issue of children incarcerated parents within the UN human rights system. Since then, the issue has been reflected in a Human Rights Council resolutions, advanced in national policy and practice and been the subject of important research projects, with advocacy efforts coordinated by newly developed regional networks.

This resource is the latest development in efforts to raise the profile of this often overlooked group. It enables Committee Members, States and civil society to browse the Concluding Observations made by the Committee to States regarding their treatment of children of incarcerated parents. The Concluding Observations can be searched by State, year, Committee session, UN document reference or keywords. 

We hope that the resource will encourage further recognition of this issue in international policy, leading to better protection of these children’s rights.

The database can be found at

We also marked the five-year anniversary of the DGD by delivering an oral statement to the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council on children of incarcerated parents. Please see here for details of the statement.

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