Not my crime, still my sentence: Children of Prisoners Europe launches annual pan-European campaign

Today (2 June 2020) Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE) launches its annual Not my crime, still my sentence advocacy campaign to support efforts to safeguard the rights of children who have a parent in prison. This year’s campaign follows on the heels of the publication of ‘It’s Time to Act,’ a child-friendly version of Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)5 concerning children with imprisoned parents, written by young people in collaboration with COPE members throughout Europe.

The 2020 campaign has two goals: it aims to provide children an opportunity to engage with the Recommendation in a meaningful way and it aims to motivate key stakeholders and decision-makers to commit to positive steps on behalf of children affected by parental imprisonment. In practical terms, COPE members will hold workshops with young people and children affected by parental imprisonment, using online tools such as videoconferencing to create a space for discussing their rights and expressing themselves using art supplies. Young people will be asked to draw their interpretation of one of the articles put forth in the Council of Europe Recommendation, and to explain why they chose that particular article, what it means to them and why it is important.

COPE members will be participating in this effort during the month of June, working to raise awareness in Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England & Wales, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Romania, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as in European Union institutions.

The 2020 campaign & the Covid-19 pandemic

The extraordinary global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an environment in which decision-makers and policy-makers must, of necessity, make public health their main concern. Yet the exigency of this crisis creates a very real possibility that issues affecting children, particularly children with a parent in prison who are already often marginalised, may fall off the table. All of this at a moment when the negative realities of these children’s lives are exacerbated by the pandemic: as a population that is vulnerable at the best of times, children with a parent in prison can be particularly affected in times of upheaval.

This campaign was conceived with the circumstances of states’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic in mind. Children’s rights need to remain central, especially during this unprecedented challenge to an already vulnerable population.

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