Forty thousand Czech children have parents in prison. How to alleviate their trauma?


According to experts, domestic legislation does not create any conditions for maintaining the relationship between the child and his convicted parent. This should be remedied by a project of social workers from Masaryk University and the International Prison Community, which will propose specific changes in the approach to children in order to reduce the impact of parents’ imprisonment on their lives.

Stigmatization by peers, the threat of falling into poverty or the loss of social and emotional attachment to parents. These are just some of the problems of children whose parents have been imprisoned. “It’s a difficult situation for them, because sometimes their parents are arrested right before their eyes. No one takes into account that they are losing the most important relationship in their childhood. They have no vote in the whole process of criminal proceedings. That is why these children are referred to abroad as silent victims, “explains Jitka Navrátilová from the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University.

This situation results, for example, in the fact that parents are placed in prison far from the home of their children, who sometimes cannot visit them due to the economic and social situation. And if visits are possible, they take place in prison conditions, which exacerbate the trauma of children.

Worse than divorce

Navrátilová and colleagues would like to change this through a project called Parenting Behind Bars. “We would like the project to raise awareness of the children of imprisoned parents and their situation, thereby reducing their stigma and social exclusion. The practical outputs of the project, such as picture cards, will help children to better orientate themselves in the situation and to manage it emotionally. The results of the research can significantly support systemic changes in taking into account children’s rights in the process of imprisoning a parent and bring practical proposals for innovations arising from the needs of children, “said one of the project’s co-authors, Žaneta Dvořáčková.

The research counts on interviews with the children themselves, their punished parents or even partners whose counterpart found himself in prison. The result will be proposals for a new methodology and visual aids for social workers who come into contact with these children. “At present, they treat this group of children similarly to the children of divorcing couples, despite the fact that the impact of the situation is more massive for those with imprisoned parents,” added Jitka Navrátilová.

In the next phase, there are also suggestions on how to incorporate the parental status of a convicted person into the legislation so that when determining the form of punishment, the contact with the child is also considered.

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