2011 Day of General Discussion on children of incarcerated parents

Date: 2nd November 2011
Category: General measures of implementation

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recently celebrated its 2011 Day of General Discussion in Geneva, in which more than 200 people took part, making it the biggest DGD to date. This year's discussion was dedicated to the theme of 'Children of Incarcerated Parents'.

The event, opened by Jean Zermatten, Chair of the Committee, aimed to remind governments of their obligations to protect and promote the rights of these children as outlined in Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Two youth representatives from the United Kingdom: Sian, 13, and Raheel, 17 - both of whom have a parent in prison - were also present at the event to "tell people what things are like first-hand instead of professionals telling our stories for us". They shared some of the questions that pass through the minds of children in their situation. Why don't prison staff treat us like human beings? Why don't we have any privacy? Why aren't there support groups for children going through similar things? Why don't prison staff speak to families and get to know them? CRIN later had the chance to interview them both about their experiences.

The meeting then split into two working groups. Working group 1, chaired by CRC member Prof. Yanghee Lee, addressed all issues related to babies and children living with or visiting a parent in prison. Issues covered included: the lack of official data to indicate the number of children in such circumstances, the conditions of prisons and the need for child-friendly environments within them, the possibility of non-custodial sentences, setting an age limit for living with an incarcerated parent, children's right to know about their parent's incarceration, the training of staff within the prison and judicial systems, and children's best interests.

Working group 2, chaired by CRC member Mr. Sanphasit Koompraphant and facilitated by Oliver Robertson of the Quakers United Nations Office, focused on all aspects of the impact of a parent's incarceration on children who remain on the outside, including arrest, pre-trial, court and sentencing, contact with the incarcerated parent, life on the outside, and release and reintegration.