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Children living in prison with a primary caregiver: a global mapping of age restrictions and duration of stay

Van Hout, M, Fleißner, S, Klankwarth, U-B and Stöver, H (2023) Children living in prison with a primary caregiver: a global mapping of age restrictions and duration of stay. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. ISSN 2352-4642

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Women represent a growing proportion of the global prison population of 11.5 million. There are no reliable estimates of pregnant women in prison, or children born/living in prison with a primary caregiver. There are pros (e.g., mother-child bond during breastfeeding) and cons (e.g., institutionalised environment) regarding decisions permitting children to stay in prison with a primary caregiver for a duration. Documented human rights violations globally illustrate prison system failures to consider paediatric needs and ensure humane standards of child/infant detention (e.g., treatment as de facto prisoners, unsafe living conditions, inadequate access to safe play, healthcare and schooling, difficulties in securing identity documents when born in prison, and inadequate prison-exit supports). There is no global consensus regarding at what age confinement of a child inhibits healthy development, warranting removal from prison. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child observes that determining a fixed age for separation and exit from prison is not viable and could compromise child protection standards in some States. A global synthesis mapped the variation in age restrictions and durations of time permitting children to stay with a primary caregiver in prison. Countries adopt a broad range of approaches (not permitting children in prisons, setting strict timebound limits, providing extensions based on reasonable grounds/special circumstances, and stretching official regulations beyond set time durations, e.g., in low resource/fragile states) and provisions regarding placement of children in prison. Policymakers are advised to integrate provisions of Article 30 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child into domestic policies and standards. Globally it is the only set of explicit guidelines regarding individualised qualitative judicial decision-making processes, consideration of relevant safeguarding factors (e.g., child profiles, family relationships, availability of alternative care, prison environmental aspects), practical application of permissions to stay in prison regarding standards of paediatric care, and provisions of safety-net supports on prison-exit. Training of staff and routine monitoring of pediatric standards of detention by national prison inspectorates and UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies is crucial. Future research agendas must focus on optimal child safeguarding and development during transfer and confinement, and on requisite prison exit supports in various cultural contexts and settings.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV8301 Penology. Prisons. Corrections
Divisions: Public Health Institute
Publisher: Elsevier
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2023 10:54
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2023 15:15
DOI or ID number: 10.1016/S2352-4642(23)00190-6
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/20494
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