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Developing a Child’s Right to Effective Contact with a Father in Prison—An Irish Perspective

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Recent years have witnessed a gradual increase in international research on the effects of parental incarceration on families and prisoners both in the short, medium and long term. However, the rights of children with a parent in prison is a subject which, in the Irish context at least, has been ill considered to date by policy and law makers. Research has shown that the consequences of failing to support this group of children can be adverse, not only for children concerned, but also for families and society more generally. Policy and practice development in supporting the child/parent relationship has primarily focused on mothers, with the consequential underplaying of the importance of the father/child relationship from the father’s point of view as well as that of the child. Between 2015 and 2016, a national qualitative study, the first of its kind conducted in the Republic of Ireland, aimed to explore professional perspectives of those working in the Irish prison system on the extent to which the rights of children with a parent in prison are recognised and protected during prison visits. A small number of family members were interviewed to give some insight into the experiences of children and families. Thus, the findings of this study as they relate to the child’s right to contact specifically will be presented and considered. This article adopts a children’s rights framework to consider the challenges involved in realising the rights of a child when their father is in prison. Furthermore, by benchmarking current Irish practices against international and regional standards as far as child/father visits are concerned, it seeks to provide a snapshot of the extent to which the rights of children with a parent in prison are protected in the Republic of Ireland.
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Keywords: Children’s rights; fatherhood; incarcerated parents; parenting; right to contact

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Law, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

Publication date: April 3, 2018

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