Post Romania

COPING's Second pan-European Consortium meeting held in Iasi, Romania

Cuza Uni

September saw the Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza, Romania's top university and a member of COPING, host the second consortium meeting on children with imprisoned parents.

Professors Vasile Isan Dean and Nicu Gavriluta, of Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza, opened the event, underscoring the University's strong commitment to the COPING project.

The University of Huddersfield's Professor Adele Jones described the project and pointed out the paucity of data on children with imprisoned parents. She stated that the estimate of 800,000 children separated from an imprisoned parent in the European Union on a given day each year was most likely an underestimate. The COPING study will help identify the needs of the children with imprisoned parents and reveal the gaps that exist in meeting those needs.

A series of talks on children with imprisoned parents in Romania revealed how family contact was a big help in dealing with the stress of prison life. The consortium heard that Romania's legal system provided scope for generous help for this group of children, but the country had no institution specialising in the protection of children with imprisoned parents.

A case study on transgenerational crime, presented by the Romanian Director of Social Services, revealed how children under the legal age of 14 are frequently forced by parents to commit certain crimes or face physical punishment – demonstrating how crucial it is to know the full background when working with prisoners' children.

The Governor of Iasi Penitentiary, Commissar Marius Vulpe, said he aimed to use the results of the COPING study to help reduce trauma for children. Judge Narcis Stoica, Vice-President of the Tribunal of Iasi, said he also looked forward to the findings as they would give him a valuable insight into transgenerational crime.

Catalin Luca, Director of the Romanian NGO Alternative Sociale, and Liliana Foca, a psychologist at Alternative Sociale, spoke about prisoners' family characteristics in their country and their work with them.

State penitentiaries in four Romanian counties are involved in the COPING project - Iasi, with 1,303 offenders, Vaslui, Botosani and Bacau.

Of the four countries in which the COPING study is being carried out – Germany, Romania, UK and Sweden – Romania has the second-highest rate of incarceration, currently at 28,188 offenders[1] – equalling a rate of 131 per 100,000 of the population.[2] The overall average length of imprisonment based on the total number of prisoners is 28.4 months, significantly higher to that in other partner countries – 6.7 months in the UK and 3.9 months in Sweden.[3] There is little data on the number of children separated from an imprisoned parent in Romania, but it is estimated that 36,645 children in Romania are separated from an imprisoned parent on a given day each year.[4]

The Romanian experience was juxtaposed with that of the UK, Sweden and Germany and an exhibition of artwork created by children with imprisoned parents helped to emphasise COPING's child-centred approach.

Research on children with imprisoned parents is in its infancy. Now COPING, as a large-scale study, will help consolidate the evidence so that a European policy can take shape. For additional information, contact coping.eu@hud.ac.uk.