Giving a Voice to the Children of Prisoners: ‘Incarcerated Connection’

MAASTRICHT: The spotlight was on child rights on 17th November as UNU-MERIT, University College Maastricht and the School of Governance hosted a conference to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Focusing on the children of prisoners, the event was inspired by the child and human rights defender, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is currently in prison in Iran.

Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer was awarded the 2011 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write award. She has been in Evin prison since September 2010 and is sentenced to six years in jail along with a 10 year ban on practising law. Since her arrest, she has had just a handful of few face-to-face meetings with her children.

Incarcerated Connection was held not only in support of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s children, but for all children of inmates. The meeting was opened with a keynote speech by Maria Herczog, a member of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child.

There followed two panels, one focusing on the challenges and struggles of children of prisoners and the other on support for projects and lessons learnt. Panel members were drawn from academic and research institutions, civil society organizations, and activists from England, Iran, Northern Ireland, Syria and the USA.

Discussions covered various areas concerning children of political and criminal prisoners. The speakers were united in a belief that there is an urgent need for more academic research to explore the needs and struggles of this group of children.  A further recommendation was to embark on more innovative research to identify the economic and social implications of imprisonment and to investigate effective alternatives to prison.

Sepideh Yousefzadeh, PhD fellow, UNU-MERIT / Maastricht Graduate School of Governance

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