Pope Francis meets children of Italian prisoners in Paul VI hall at the Vatican May 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis meets children of Italian prisoners in Paul VI hall at the Vatican May 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis met children of Italian Prisoners at the The Vatican on May 30th 2015.
The Italian youngsters, some of whom were born in prison and all of whom have at least one parent in jail, were treated to a special train trip thanks to the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Flying and dreaming were the themes of their activities and their fast-paced conversation with the pope. They began their meeting with him by flying kites in the cleared parking lot next to the Vatican audience hall.

Some of the little ones got up before dawn to board the train in Bari, a town in southern Italy. Encouraging all the kids to gather close around him, he invited the exhausted ones to take a little nap on the rug where his chair was.
The pope asked them, “Is it true that you flew today?” They shouted, “Yes.” And he said, “One of you explain to me. How did you fly?” A little boy said, “By dreaming.”
Pope Francis asked the children if they could describe a child who is unable to dream. They said such a person would be unhappy and would have a heart of stone.
Catching the pope’s attention, one little girl said a heart hardens or becomes ice when “we don’t listen to the Word of God and to Jesus.”
“Never stop dreaming,” the pope told the children. “And, like she said, never stop listening to the word of Jesus because listening to the word of God makes one great; it enlarges your heart and helps you to love everyone.”



The conference celebrated the UNCRC becoming national law in Sweden

Children of Prisoners Europe –COPE co-organised an international conference in Stockholm with Swedish network member BUFF (formerly Bryggan). The conference, which took place on Friday May 22 2015, focused on the rights of children separated from a parent in prison. A very diverse and interesting set of speakers approached the topic from a variety of angles, and the talks culminated in an engaging panel discussion led by Lucy Gampell (COPE president) and Madelein Löfgren (director of Bufff Stockholm).

The conference celebrated the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child becoming national law in Sweden, the UNCRC being the most important and comprehensive children’s rights instrument.

With the UNCRC the child became a subject with rights, with Article 3: the right for the best interests of the child to be paramount for any decision that concerns them) and Article 12 :the right to be heard and to have her/his opinion taken into account ,as two of the founding principles of the Convention.

Liz Ayre, the Director of COPE, says that the conference emphasized that when considering children of imprisoned parents, what is really crucial is working to develop systems whereby the implementation of these rights genuinely meets the needs of each individual child.

On June 1st 2015, Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE) launched its annual campaign on children of prisoners (Not My Crime, Still My Sentence). Each year in June, the network launches a month-long campaign to raise awareness about the issue of children with imprisoned parents. This year, the campaign targets not only the general public but also important decision-makers such as the “Child Rights Champions” (Members of the European Parliament who have signed the Child Rights Manifesto). The campaign aims to create a platform for open dialogue and learning as well as a forum for decision-makers to demonstrate their support for the cause. Read




On May, 8 2015, an INTERNATIONAL NETWORK FOR CHILDREN WITH INCARCERATED PARENTS was launched in Dallas USA, following two meetings with 22 delegates comprised of academicians, practitioners and human rights activists; all working to help children who suffer violation of their human rights due to the incarceration of their parents.
Through these meetings, it was determined that there is a great need for an international network designed to encourage sincere open communication and collaboration to strengthen all efforts to specifically support these many forgotten children. This supposition has been stated before by participants that took part in the UN Committee on the Rights of The Child Day of General Discussion (DGD) September 30, 2011. It is believed that the humble cooperative sharing and learning of experiences, knowledge, research and best practices will help all involved to strengthen and cultivate a more satisfactory system for the care of children affected by parental imprisonment in each country.
During the meeting that took place on May 7, 2015 in Dallas,Texas,delegates from official organizations in Uganda, United Kingdom, Scotland, Switzerland, Belgium, India, Latin America and the United States introduced themselves and shared the work that they are currently doing around the world.
Both of these meetings took place on the sidelines of the International Prisoner’s’ Family Conference.



Tina Pennington and Mandy Williams,Sisters (Red&Black) giving the opening Key Note presentation at the Conference.

Tina Pennington and Mandy Williams,Sisters (Red&Black) giving the opening Key Note presentation at the Conference.


2015 marks a new dimension for the Prisoner’s Family Conference, it officially became an InterNational conference with attendees from Belgium, Central America, India, New Zealand, Scotland, Switzerland, Uganda, United Kingdom and the United States.

Prisoners Families conference has grown significantly from a United States of America conference to a steadily growing international conference that is focused primarily on the family experiences connected to incarceration.

The three day conference in its 7th year running provided a forum for those personally affected by incarceration as well as representatives of secular and faith based organizations serving prisoners and their loved ones.

At this conference, Over 70 conference attendees signed an agreement to form an Advocacy in Action Coalition under the auspices of the International Prisoner’s Family Conference with Avon Hart-Johnson, PhD serving as its chair. Currently, a small working committee is researching the coalition’s identified topics to draft a Candidate’s Report Card.

Carolyn Esparza ,the Conference Chair worked with a team of 11 people to put up this highly organised,innovative and life changing conference.
One of the people who attended said:

This conference is a unique experience to focus fully on the familial experiences related to incarceration. Unlike other conferences that focus on re-entry and incarceration, this conference uniquely takes into account the value and the importance of a strong family system to ensure that ex-offenders/returning citizens have a successful chance of reintegrating in a way that ensures lasting results.