Timeline

Children of Prisoners

Raising awareness about children with parents in prison, the problems they face and possible solutions, for both children living in prison with a parent and children remaining in the community.
July 2017

Read QUNO's latest Geneva Reporter newsletter

QUNO's July 2017 issue of the Geneva Reporter newsletter is now available online. The latest issue features: an update from our Human Rights & Refugees Representative on the new “global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration,” news about the inter-faith meetings QUNO helped to organize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a brief overview on our recent cross-cutting work on sustaining peace and climate change, and a QUNO Q&A  with Carolan Redfearn.

The full publication is available below.

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June 2017

Briefing the Committee on the Rights of the Child on children of prisoners

On 31st May 2017, the Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents held a briefing and discussion with the Committee on the Rights of the Child, focussing on the rights of children of incarcerated parents.

Laurel Townhead (QUNO) and Rachel Brett (COPE member) provided an introduction, highlighting work done so far by the Committee, particularly since the Day of General Discussion in 2011. They noted that despite significant advances in understanding on this issue, implementation remains patchy and more can be done by the Committee to ensure protection of these children’s rights.

Their introductions were followed by a discussion with members of the Committee, many of whom have a long-standing commitment to this issue. The main points raised in the discussion were:

  • The need for child rights perspectives to be taken up in cases involving separation of children from their arrested or incarcerated parent, particularly by the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Consideration of how best to protect the rights of children detained with their mothers and ensuring that their best interests are met, including in the Latin American context.
  • Alternatives to imprisonment such as home detention.
  • Good practice from South Africa based on a Constitutional Court ruling setting out a test for taking the best interests of the child into account when sentencing their primary carer.
  • Protection of children and ensuring childcare arrangements are in place in situations of arrest of a parent.
  • The lack of services available in many countries for children affected by parental imprisonment, particularly health and social services.
  • Good practice examples in protecting these children’s rights, such as the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Italian Ministry of Justice, the children’s ombudsman and the main NGO working on this issue in Italy.
  • The importance of continuing to raise this in reviews and in Concluding Observations and work done with regional networks to provide the Committee with information about the situation in countries as they report.
  • The interest and possibility of a General Comment by the Committee on this issue.

 

 

For more information please see the following documents shared with the Committee members:

  • A short briefing by the QUNO on the Committee’s work to date on this issue.
  • A longer briefing paper Committee’s work on children of incarcerated parents. L. Townhead ‘Briefing Paper: Children of Incarcerated Parents International Standards and Guidance’, (2015) Quaker United Nations Office.
  • The Italian Memorandum of Understanding.
  • Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents’ recommendations for States based on Italian good practice.

 

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April 2017

6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty: new publication and website

The Quaker United Nations Office works on children of parents sentenced to death or executed first and foremost because we believe that such children should not be forgotten and their rights should be upheld.  The 2016 World Congress Against the Death Penalty recognized that the impact of a death sentence on the children of parents sentenced to death or executed represents a powerful argument against the death penalty.

This was the message QUNO brought to last year’s World Congress Against the Death Penalty, the details of which have been brought together in a new publication and website. The 6th The Congress was held in Oslo in June 2016 and was attended by QUNO’s Human Rights and Refugees team. The Congress, convened by Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM), is held every three years to bring together those working towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

The new report and website feature an article written by QUNO’s Laurel Townhead, highlighting the significant and often devastating impacts on children whose parents are sentenced to death or executed, and explaining why this can be a used as a strong argument for abolition. QUNO also wrote a briefing paper on children of parents sentenced to death or executed ahead of the event, which provides more detail on this issue.

QUNO continues to work to raise the profile of children of parents facing the death penalty at the international level. In particular, our written statement to the 34th session of the Human Rights Council held in March this year examines how children of parents sentenced to death or executed may be considered victims of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. We also look forward to participating in the next World Congress, due to take place in 2019.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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 www.crccip.com

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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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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January 2016

VIDEO: Laurel Townhead talks about our Human Rights & Refugees programme

In this video, excerpted from a longer film shown at the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) World Plenary Meeting held in Peru in January 2016, Human Rights & Refugees discusses the work of our Human Rights & Refugees programme.

The Quaker United Nations Office Human Rights & Refugees programme works to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights through the United Nations system, with particular reference to the interface between human rights and armed conflicts, the protection of refugees, the rights of people in detention, and other Quaker concerns.

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September 2015

QUNO delivers oral statement on children of parents sentenced to death or executed at the HRC

QUNO delivered an oral statement on the rights of children of parents sentenced to death or executed during the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The issue was raised by QUNO in response to an update to the UN Secretary General's report on Capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty.

QUNO called on the Council to follow up on recommendations noted by the report, including convening an expert seminar for further investigation, and developing further guidance on the issue. Daniel Cullen, Programme Assistant for Human Rights and Refugees, delivered the statement during the General Debate discussion on Friday 18 September.

Text and video (beginning at 01:41:30) is available below: 

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June 2015

QUNO co-hosts "Moving away from the Death Penalty" side event at the 29th session of the Human Rights Council

QUNO will co-host the side event "Moving away from the Death Penalty: Protection of the rights of persons facing death penalty abroad, including migrants" at the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 11am.

The side-event will provide a platform for the exchange of information and views on persons who face the death penalty aboard, including migrant workers; and to share good practices, lesson learned and challenges in the implementation of relevant international human rights standards. 

Further details on the event and panelists can be found in the flyer available below.

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May 2015

QUNO co-hosts side event at the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna

QUNO, together with Friends World Committee for Consultation and Penal Reform International, hosted a side event at the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna on Friday, 22 May 2015. The event presented an opportunity for further discussion following the presentation to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice​ (CCPCJ) of the ninth quinquennial report of the UN Secretary-General on "Capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty." Further details are available in the flyer below. 

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April 2015

QUNO hosts event on children of incarcerated parents at the 13th UN Congress of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

QUNO's Laurel Townhead and Rachel Brett presented the findings of the COPING project, a transnational research project looking at the impact of parental incarceration on the mental health and well being of children at the Thirteenth UN Congress of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Doha, Qatar.

The COPING project examined ways criminal justice professionals and others can support children's resilience and the session will cover recent developments in the UN human rights system in the promotion and protection of the rights of children of incarcerated parents, including children of parents sentenced to death. Following the presentations was an opportunity to discuss these issues and to share examples of national practice.

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March 2015

QUNO co-hosts side event on children of incarcerated parents at the Human Rights Council

QUNO, along with the Permanent Delegation of the African Union to the UN in Geneva, the Permanent Mission of Uruguay and Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents hosted a panel discussion and good practice exchange on policy and practice developments related to children of incarcerated parents.

The event is being held during the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, on 11 March in Geneva. Further details are available in the flyer below.

 

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March 2015

QUNO particpates in a side event on strengthening death penalty standards at the Human Rights Council

On Monday, 9 March, QUNO participated in a side event on strengthening death penalty standards, organized by Penal Reform International and the Permanent Representations of Switzerland and Mexico. QUNO Representative Laurel Townhead spoke at the event on the impact of death penalty on children of parents sentenced to death. Further details about the event can be found in the flyer below.

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August 2014

QUNO raises the rights of prisoners and their families at the 27th session of the UN Human Rights Council

QUNO has raised the issue of the rights of the families of persons deprived of their liberty and of children of parents sentenced to death at the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.  These issues have been raised by QUNO in the General Debate and in the Panel on the Human Rights of Persons Deprived of their Liberty. This Panel was the first time the Council has dedicated time to considering the full range of human rights violations experienced by people in detention and made reference to the impact on their families including their children. 

Laurel Townhead, Representative for Human Rights and Refugees, delivered three oral statements, on the topics of women in prisons, older prisoners and children of parents sentenced to death or executed. Video of the three statements are available below:

  • Statement on women in prison given at the Panel on Persons Deprived of their Liberty
    (statement begins at 01:24:00)
  • Statement on children of parents sentenced to death at the General Debate
    (statement begins at 00:07:00) 

     

  • Statement given at the Interactive Dialogue with Independent Expert on Older Persons.
    (statement begins at 01:48:11)

 

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August 2014

A new Human Rights and Refugees Representative at QUNO Geneva

In February, Rachel Brett who has been Representative, Human Rights and Refugees (HRR) at QUNO Geneva since 1993 announced her plan to retire.  After an international selection process, Laurel Townhead has been appointed to this position from 18 August; we extend a warm welcome to Laurel. Laurel obtained her Master's degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex in 2003. She has experience, among other issues, of work on women in prison, children of prisoners, conscientious objection to military service and support to asylum seekers. She was at QUNO Geneva as HRR Programme Assistant and Project Assistant in 2005-7 and comes to us now from her position as Policy & Campaigns Manager at the UK NGO Women in Prison that she has held since 2008. Laurel has been an attender of Peckham Quaker Meeting in London for several years.

Rachel will continue to work with us part-time as Adviser, HRR during a significant transition period. Her outstanding work has improved the lives of many, changed attitudes, built understanding and led to new international agreements. Rachel has worked on the needs of child soldiers, women prisoners, conscientious objectors to military service, stateless people, and children of parents sentenced to death.

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May 2014

UN Commission on Crime Prevention & Criminal Justice (CCPCJ): Elimination of Violence against Children

QUNO welcomes the CCPCJ adoption of the United Nations Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, whose scope includes children of incarcerated parents.

The Model Strategies and Practical Measures are intended to help States in developing integrated strategies for violence prevention and child protection. In summation, they consider that the justice system has a complementary role to the child protection, social welfare, health and education sectors, in creating a protective environment and in preventing and responding to violence against children.
 

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May 2014

Revision of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

The UN Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs) are the reference for national authorities on how prisoners should be treated. However, they were adopted in the 1950s and, though good, need updating. In our work, QUNO has identified a need for reviewing the SMRs, and supports the ongoing process for revision. Since the adoption of the SMRs, new standards relating to the treatment of prisoners have been developed, including relevant human rights treaties. In 2010, the SMRs were supplemented by Rules specifically focussed on women prisoners (known as the Bangkok Rules) in whose development QUNO was involved. More recently, a process started to update the SMRs themselves.

The UN Commission on Crime Prevention & Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) has agreed to extend the mandate to revise the Standard Minimum Rules (SMRs) for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR). The CCPCJ maintained the commitment that any changes must not lower existing standards. An expert meeting will be convened, probably in the Autumn, to continue to revise the SMRs, with the involvement of non-governmental organizations, like the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC). 
 

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May 2014

UN Commission on Crime Prevention & Criminal Justice: Side-event on the wider impacts of the death penalty

In May, QUNO attended the annual UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) in Vienna with other representatives from the Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quakers). At the CCPCJ, FWCC co-sponsored a side-event with Amnesty International and Penal Reform International on the wider impacts of the death penalty. Rachel Brett drew attention specifically to the children of parents who have been sentenced to the death penalty. 

At this event, QUNO screened a new video on children of parents sentenced to death, which was prepared with the Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents. We also launched a new publication, entitled Children of Parents Sentenced to the Death Penalty or Executed: Developments, Good Practices and Next Steps. 

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