Mothers behind bars and children left outside : balancing the child’s best interests and the right to family life of the imprisoned mother: need for penal reform?

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Gelders, Beatrijs
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“Not my crime, still my sentence”, in Europe it is estimated that there are around 37.000 children with an imprisoned mother. Women locked up behind bars are often mothers. Being in prison brings some difficulties to fully exercise their parental rights. Moreover, Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child expresses that the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children. The principle has been criticised for being too vague and indeterminate and it certainly cannot be a primary consideration when the parent is convicted for having committed a crime. There are also no binding guidelines on how to balance the best interests of the child with other interests, such as the right to family life of the imprisoned mother and the right of the state to punish for crime, which might conflict. This research aims to contribute to the existing literature concerning children with imprisoned mothers and to help shift the narrative so that prison authorities and states assure a more child-considerate approach in criminal justice systems.
Second semester University: Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski
children rights, children's rights, detained persons, motherhood, family, parents, Europe, criminal justice