Children whose parents are in prison will today (30 September) address a meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva. Campaigners say that the issue of prisoners' children has until now received little or no attention from the United Nations (UN).
At its 2011 Day of General Discussion (DGD), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) will explore the rights of "children of incarcerated parents". These children have committed no crime but are deeply affected by their parents’ involvement in the criminal justice system.
Almost uniquely, children themselves will speak at the main session of the DGD, which with up to 250 participants is expected to be the biggest ever.
“Children of prisoners are often referred to as the invisible victims of the penal system”, said Oliver Robertson, co-convenor of the NGO Group for the CRC’s Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents, “We hope that this event will bring them to centre stage.”
Despite affecting millions of children worldwide - over two million children in the USA alone are believed to have parents in prison – this is the first time that this issue has been discussed substantively anywhere in the UN system.
Alongside two prisoners’ children, specialists from Brazil, Pakistan and South Africa will also speak to the DGD.
“This is an issue where no one country or region is a clear world leader”, said Rachel Brett of the Quaker United Nations Office, which has worked on this issue since 2004.
She continued, “The DGD therefore gives us a unique opportunity to share ideas with people from around the globe who have worked with children of prisoners day in, day out”.
The DGD will look both at babies and children who live in prison with their parents and those children who remain outside. It is accompanied by an exhibition showing children’s experiences of parental incarceration through the words and drawings of children themselves.