Considering the Best Interests of the Child in Sentencing and Other Decisions Concerning Parents Facing Criminal Sanctions

About the Initiative

Children whose parents come into conflict with the law, and particularly those whose parents are incarcerated, experience tremendous stress and disruption in their lives that can affect their development and social adaptation. There is current momentum in British Columbia favouring reduction in short-term incarceration, particularly of Indigenous offenders, and implementing community-based alternatives that promote public safety and the successful reintegration of offenders. The goal of this project is to instigate and support a systemic and cultural change in the way that the best interests of the child are considered by defence counsel, the prosecution and the courts. The ultimate intention is to encourage active consideration of child impact and family impact at time of sentencing and other court decisions, principally by prosecutors and judges but also all those with influence in criminal proceedings, to avoid the potentially negative impacts of those decisions. A broader purpose is to raise awareness about these issues more generally, and to assist the reader in identifying practices which serve to diminish consideration of the best interests of the child, where these exist. An Overview document and several additional resources have been developed for that purpose and are available on this website. The Overview document is intended to influence policy change, to encourage greater availability of non-carceral or community-based alternatives to incarceration for people with parental responsibilities, and to support parents in mitigating the impact of their own sentencing and court order compliance on their children.

The three-year project is led by ICCLR, working closely with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver (EFry) and the Canadian Coalition for Children with Incarcerated Parents. The project is made possible through the support of a generous project grant from the Vancouver Foundation.