Race and prison

There were more than 140,000 admissions into prison in England and Wales in 2017—the highest number in western Europe, according to a new report published today (24 June 2019) by the Prison Reform Trust.

The report Prison: the facts, reveals that, despite the number falling in recent years, England and Wales still have over 40,000 more admissions to prison than Germany, the second-highest—which has a significantly larger national population.

The rate of prison admissions, which accounts for the effects of differences in national populations, shows that England and Wales have a rate approximately three times that of Italy and Spain, and almost twice as high as Germany, with 238 prison admissions for every 100,000 people.

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Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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The Prison Reform Trust and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, along with a coalition of organisations working with children and young people in the criminal justice system, have written a letter published in today’s Times opposing the government’s proposed knife crime prevention orders. A copy of the letter and a list of signatures is below.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence has also criticised the proposals, in an article in the Times which also highlights today’s letter.

The bill is being debated in the House of Lords today. The Prison Reform Trust and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice have published a briefing for Peers urging them to oppose the new orders and highlighting other key amendments.

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Commenting on the findings of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report on discrimination complaints, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman adds to the growing weight of evidence that prisons are failing to tackle discrimination. It echoes the findings of our own research, showing that many people, legitimately seeking answers, face unacceptable delays and inadequate responses. The neglect of remedies for unfair treatment should concern us all. A well functioning complaints system is a fundamental part of a successful prison service. It allows grievances to be resolved at an early stage and provides vital opportunities for prisons to learn. The government is failing to meet its legal responsibilities to promote equality in criminal justice. The Ombudsman’s report helps to show what government must do to repair the processes of resolving complaints about discrimination.”


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Commenting on the government’s response to the Lammy Review, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
 
“This is a comprehensive response that aims to meet the spirit as well as the letter of David Lammy’s report. But key recommendations on the judiciary have been rejected, outcomes for women are neglected, and very few of the promises of action have deadlines for completion. No new resources are promised to support any of this work, and the degree of external scrutiny proposed is very modest.

“So, as the government acknowledges, everything now depends on the evidence of change on the ground. Equality requires perpetual vigilance. The Lammy Review’s recommendation of an ‘explain or reform’ discipline must become a permanent foundation, running throughout every stage of criminal justice. We are a long way from that, and trust will only develop if people from BAME communities, including those in prison, see good words turned into action.”

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The latest edition of the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley briefings prison factfile highlights in facts and figures the consequences of a punitive political arms race over criminal justice policy over the past three decades. Steep cuts to prison staff and budgets in recent years have exposed the fault lines of a failed approach. The result is an overcrowded and overstretched prison system where standards of safety and decency are way below international expectations.
 
This year’s Bromley briefings open with a brand new section which we have called “The long view”. The Prison Reform Trust has built its reputation over more than three decades on presenting accurate evidence about prisons and the people in them. In a world where ministers feel compelled to respond to issues with ever greater immediacy, “The long view” offers an antidote to the latest Twitter storm or early morning grilling in the media.

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PRT comment: Lammy Review

08/09/2017 00:01:00

Commenting on David Lammy's independent review into the treatment and outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system, published today (8 September), director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson said:

“This is a seminal report. It shows through dispassionate factual analysis our criminal justice system still discriminates when it comes to ethnicity.  But it also shows that the solutions lie in accountable, fair practice which every part of the system could achieve, and which would benefit every person caught up in the system, regardless of their race or background.
 
“On her first day in office, the Prime Minister highlighted systemic disadvantage as a priority. David Lammy has delivered an unanswerable case for change with a practical set of recommendations to achieve it. The government has an opportunity to right a deep seated wrong at the heart of our justice system. The time for analysis is past—the time to act is now"

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Black and mixed ethnicity women are more than twice as likely as white women in the general population to be arrested, according to a new report published today (31 August) by the Prison Reform Trust.

Black women are also more likely than other women to be remanded or sentenced to custody, and are 25% more likely than white women to receive a custodial sentence following a conviction, the report reveals. Black, Asian and minority ethnic women make up 11.9% of the women’s population in England and Wales, but account for 18% of the women’s prison population.

This report, Counted Out, is timely and has been submitted to the Lammy review ahead of its launch in September, to highlight the overlooked inequalities experienced by many Black, Asian and minority ethnic women in the criminal justice system.

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Only one in 100 prisoners who made an allegation of discrimination against prison staff had their case upheld by the prison. By contrast, three in four staff (76%) reports of alleged discrimination by a prisoner were upheld, an in-depth research report by the Zahid Mubarek Trust and the Prison Reform Trust reveals.

The report finds that the system for handling discrimination complaints in prisons is neither fair nor impartial, does not have the confidence of prisoners, and is failing to provide prisons with the opportunity to learn and provide more equitable treatment. As prisons struggle to cope with increasing violence and fewer officers, equality has slipped down the priority list.

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