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Our Stories Matter: New project aiming to foster a child-centred approach in prison reform

20 November 2022

The NHC is happy to announce that together with partners Exodus Nederland , Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE), EUROPRIS, Dienst Justitiële Inrichtingen and Zaanstad Complex we will be starting a new project aimed at fostering a child-centred approach to prison reform in the Netherlands and in the EU. Click here to find out more.

An estimated 2.1 million children deal with parental imprisonment in Council of Europe (CoE) countries. Those children retain the right to maintain a relationship with their parent, as underlined at the 2011 United Nations Day of General Discussion. Furthermore, participation of children in decision-making processes is identified as the first thematic area of the EU Strategy on the rights of the child. Child participation is understood as a right for children to be heard and an obligation for adults to facilitate it and organise it in a meaningful, inclusive and safe way.

However, child participation does not come naturally in prisons. While several local small-scale initiatives have taken place in the Netherlands to stimulate child participation in prisons, they often lack true sustainable involvement of children in the decision making process itself, and the children remain far from the actual decision making process.

Through the “Our Stories Matter” project, the NHC and partners aim to tackle this issue and structurally embed meaningful, inclusive and safe children’s participation in policy design and implementation processes at local and national level in prisons in the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent in the whole EU.

The NHC has a wide record of projects within prison reform focused particularly on children and juveniles. Currently, it is implementing the Giving Back project in the Netherlands. The project is aimed at increasing child-friendly treatment of young people in prisons by including their lived experiences in the training of professionals working in closed youth institutions.

Recently, the NHC held a closing conference of the project Towards Safe, Stimulating and Rehabilitative Prison Environment for Children and Juveniles in Conflict with the Law in Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia, which was directed at improving the possibilities of juvenile detainees to successfully reintegrate into society. The programme built on the results of another  successful 2013-2017 MATRA/CoPROL project which the NHC implemented in Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia.

This project is funded under the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV) of the European Commission.