When parents are sent to prison, their children are often sentenced to suffering.
That was the conclusion of a study by criminology and social work researchers at the University of the Fraser Valley last year.
Now a coalition of researchers has released a set of guidelines that recognizes this and sets national standards for the correctional management of incarcerated women who are pregnant or in custody with children.
The guidelines were drafted by the Collaborating Centre for Prison Health and Education (CCPHE) at UBC.
UFV participated as a member of the working group that developed the 15 guiding principles and eight recommended best practices for correctional facilities.
The guidelines follow on the heels of a BC Supreme Court ruling that ordered the reinstatement of a cancelled mother-baby program at a B.C. women’s prison.
“UFV welcomes and endorses these long-awaited recommendations. These guidelines will help to promote the best interests of children by assisting organizations who are working with parents involved in the criminal justice system,” said Dr. Jacqueline Nolte, dean of arts at UFV.
In 2014, UFV published a study entitled In the Best Interests of The Child – Strategies for Recognizing and Supporting Canada’s At-Risk Population of Children with Incarcerated Parents.
One of the main conclusions of the study, which was conducted by faculty in the school of criminology and criminal justice and school of social Work at UFV, was that having an incarcerated parent can have many negative financial, educational, emotional, developmental, and social consequences for a child over their life course.
The study examined policies and practices that address the needs of children with incarcerated parents, who were found to be an invisible and vulnerable group.
The new guidelines from the CCPHE note that the best interests and safety of the child should be a primary concern, and that preserving the integrity of the mother-child relationship should be a priority at all times.
The 15 guidelines aim to improve accommodations for women with young children or who are pregnant while incarcerated.
As well, UFV faculty continue to engage in a number of research projects on children with parents who are involved in the criminal justice system.