The situation of children with a parent in prison can be in a particularly difficult one, because the incarceration of a parent has a powerful impact on the life of a child. The "loss" of a parent through incarceration can mean a time of trauma for the children concerned. This is because imprisonment severely limits the scope for direct contact between parent and child: down to as little as one visit per month, for instance, and even then, only for a few hours and under conditions not designed with children’s needs in mind.
Children’s right to interact with both of their parents is established in article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC). This right exists even when state action, such as incarceration for instance, has rendered such interaction more difficult. In line with the primary consideration of the best interests of the child (article 3 UN CRC), the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has identified an obligation by states parties to pay particular attention to rules governing interaction between incarcerated parents and their minor children. In Germany, this applies to the legislation on prisons and the execution of justice (Justizvollzugs-/ Strafvollzugsgesetz) of the federal states, which are bound by the Convention just as federal laws are.
The situation of children who have an incarcerated parent has been a major focus in the work of the National CRC Monitoring Mechanism since 2016. The National CRC Monitoring Mechanism is committed to establishing children’s ability to assert their rights vis-à-vis state bodies in reality, rather than their being considered human rights-holders merely in theory. For this reason, a chapter of the Human Rights Report 2017 of the German Institute for Human Rights was devoted to children’s right to interact with an incarcerated parent. The National CRC Monitoring Mechanism inquired into the regulations governing children’s visits with incarcerated parents in the 16 federal states. To this end, it analysed the Länder legislation governing prisons and the execution of justice. It also collected information from the 16 federal state justice ministries with a questionnaire that asked the ministries about relevant rules and practices in their federal states. These rules are detailed in Landkarte Kinderrechte , a map charting children’s rights across Germany (in German only).
The National CRC Monitoring Mechanism engages in conversations with decision-makers in political, research and civil society spheres to encourage the exchange of successful practices among the federal states and to establish a structural and financial network for civil society.
Interviews mit Claudia Kittel und Hilde Kugler zur neuen Landkarte Kinderrechte – Kinder von Inhaftierten (20.04.18) "Wie oft Kinder ihren inhaftierten Elternteil sehen können, hängt davon ab, in welchem Bundesland dieser inhaftiert ist"
Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte (2017): Menschenrechtsbericht 2017 (Kapitel 4, S. 79)