Ministry of Justice and UNICEF improve children’s contact with parents in prison
Zagreb, 28 November 2018
According to official estimates, around 12,300 children in Croatia live separated from at least one parent who is serving a prison sentence. To enable such children to maintain appropriate contact with their parents, the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Croatia, Dražen Bošnjaković, and the Acting Head of the UNICEF Office for Croatia, Đurđica Ivković, today signed a Memorandum of Understanding on protecting and advancing the rights of children whose parents are serving a prison sentence. The main objective of this agreement is to ensure joint activity to provide support to the prison system in order to create conditions for better communication between the children of prisoners and their parents in correctional facilities.
As part of this agreement, it is therefore planned to procure equipment in the form of 17 sets of IT equipment for 13 correctional facilities throughout Croatia by the end of 2019, which will enable video visits for the children of prisoners. UNICEF will secure HRK 640,000.00 to this end. After the equipment is procured this year, the experimental use of video visitation will begin in Lepoglava Penitentiary. In addition, rooms for children’s visits will also be furnished in seven correctional facilities in the country which will also in the future be provided with didactic toys and furniture.
At the time of signing the Memorandum of Agreement, the Minister of Justice, Dražen Bošnjaković, emphasised that “imprisonment creates difficulties and challenges not only for those who are deprived of liberty, but the consequences of imprisonment are very often reflected to a much greater extent on the members of their families. Focusing on the prisoner’s role as parent contributes considerably to the wellbeing of children, and the Ministry of Justice extends systematic support to all activities that contribute to maintaining the connection and contact between children and their parents in prison. Intensifying cooperation with UNICEF to facilitate support to the prison system to protect and advance children’s rights is another step forward in the successful implementation of measures defined initially in the Biannual Work Plan of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the UNICEF Office for 2018 and 2019.”
Đurđica Ivković, Acting Head of the UNICEF Office for Croatia, stated at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding: “There are thousands of children in Croatia who are separated from either one or both parents who are in prison. These children are also punished because of their parents’ mistakes and they feel stigmatised, excluded, and afraid. Both the children and their parents need support to cope with this challenge. Every child is equally entitled to family closeness, and we may not deny that right to them. Through this Memorandum of Understanding, therefore, we are attempting to ensure that the conditions for renewing these close bonds are adapted to and appropriate for children. It is a pledge for the future by which we enable children to experience an important developmental need in particularly difficult circumstances, which is why we especially appreciate the readiness of the Ministry of Justice to make this possible.”
In addition to tangible investments, with assistance provided by the association Roda—Roditelji u akciji [Stork—Parents in Action] as an implementing partner in the programme prison system officials, training will be used to further sensitise these officials on the rights of prisoners’ children to family life and to life next to their parents, which will improve their treatment of children during family visits. Judicial officials will have an opportunity to further strengthen their knowledge concerning the importance of regular contact between parents in prison and their children by means of exchanging experience with colleagues from other countries.