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International Family Law

The leading authority on international family law

12 NOV 2012

Changing mindsets, changing lives: increasing the visibility of children's rights in cases involving parental incarceration

The rights of children of parents sentenced to prison and the long-term consequences of the separation that follows have traditionally been a neglected area. This is clear from an examination of existing international documentation pertaining to prisoners and their families. Indeed, children whose parents have been incarcerated have often been referred to as '... the invisible victims of crime and the penal system'. This article intends to highlight this largely ignored group of children and the related failure to recognise and enforce their rights. It explores to what extent international and European law currently recognises and protects the rights of what appears to be a forgotten group of society's children who can be subject to a double-discrimination in terms of recognition and enforcement of their human rights. In order to do this, it will focus on two areas in particular: the role of the rights of the child in the sentencing of the primary caregiver; and the visitation rights of a child who is separated from an incarcerated parent following conviction. Moreover, the reasons why specific measures need to be adopted at international as well as national level to protect the minimum human rights of these children will be addressed.

By Dr Fiona Donson and Dr Aisling Parkes, Faculty of Law, University College Cork, Ireland

This article appeared appears in the November 2012 issue of International Family Law.

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