The over representation of young black and/or Muslim men in the Criminal Justice System has reached critical levels according to a report launched in the House of Lords today by a coalition of charities. Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) offenders are more likely to serve a prison sentence and receive harsher treatment in prison than their white counterparts.
The UK imprisons a higher proportion of its black population than the United States.
Black people account for 13.1% of the prison population, compared with approximately 2.9% population recorded in the 2011 Census.
Since 2002 the percentage of Muslims in prisons in England and Wales has nearly doubled from 7.7% to 13.4%. In comparison, Muslims make up only 4.2 % of the general population.
BAME representation in the prison population is also heavily influenced by age; there are proportionately many more young BAME male prisoners than older ones, with BAME representation in the 15-17 age group the highest at 43.7%.
In prison, black or mixed origin service users are subject to higher rates of adjudication than white service users, spend more days than average in segregation and are more frequently subject to the use of force.
One prisoner the Young Review spoke to highlighted the situation:
"Many of us accept responsibility for our actions, which brought us here, we wish to be able to serve our sentences in a humane environment and to be able to return back to our communities and contribute to society. But if we leave prison disillusioned, downtrodden and mentally abused then all that occurs is the creation of angry men."
The Young Review, led by Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, found that despite knowledge and understanding of this problem at the highest level, there has not to date been sufficient leadership or concerted effort to address it. If government is committed to reducing reoffending, making communities safer and reducing victims of crime, then the differential outcomes experienced by young black and/or Muslim male offenders in prison and the community must be tackled.
The review highlights the specific experiences and needs of young black and/or Muslim men in the criminal justice system, whose lives are often characterised by a complex mix of educational, employment, health and social inequalities. It sets out a series of recommendations that aim to ensure that action takes place - in what will soon be a newly-configured Criminal Justice System under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms - to address unequal outcomes; from prison to resettlement.
The Young Review recommends that mechanisms must be developed to incentivise criminal justice agencies and the new providers of probation services to meet the specific needs of these young men. The outcomes achieved by these providers must be rigorously monitored on how they tackle inequality- and not just reduce reoffending.
Representatives and organisations from BAME communities, working in partnership with the criminal justice system, were found to improve prisoners' perceptions of and relationships with institutions. The review calls for an emphasis on dedicated resources for community engagement. Organisations and individuals including offenders and ex-offenders themselves, with an understanding of the lived experience of this group, should also play an integral role in the planning and delivery of services.
Baroness Lola Young said:
"This issue must now be placed at the top of the criminal justice agenda to ensure that the critical levels of young black and/or Muslim men in our prisons experiencing what are acknowledged, within criminal justice agencies, to be significantly poorer outcomes than their white counterparts are addressed. We cannot afford for another report on the subject to gather dust: we need vigorous, committed leadership to drive the agenda forward."
Jeremy Crook, Director of BTEG said:
"The Young Review comes at a time of major change in our rehabilitative services and makes a strong case for the criminal justice system to improve the custodial and non-custodial support services it provides for significant and growing numbers of young black and Muslim men. Young black and Muslim men want to be respected and encouraged as individuals and not viewed and treated through the lens of negative stereotypes. Better services for young black and Muslin men will result in reductions in reoffending rates and less money spent on repeating the cycle over and over again."
BTEG thanks Baroness Lola Young for her leadership, commitment and for providing a clear way forward on this issue. Justice Ministers have also recognised improving outcomes for this group of young men is vital and we very much hope they will consider and implement the Young Review's recommendations.
Clive Martin, Director of Clinks said:
"Over previous decades there have been various reviews and inquiries into this issue but not enough progress has been made. This is now a chance to make sure that at a time of huge change for the criminal justice sector these issues are addressed so that we build public confidence in the effectiveness of good rehabilitation."
The review has benefitted greatly from the important knowledge and experience of voluntary sector organisations working with young black and/or Muslim men and their communities. The expertise of these organisations must not be lost in the delivery of offender management services through Transforming Rehabilitation supply chains.
Read more information on the Young Review and to download it's interim report.
The Black Training and Enterprise Group supports BAME civil society organisations, providing a national voice and promoting equality, inclusion, collaboration and entrepreneurship in BAME communities.
Clinks supports, represents and campaigns for the voluntary sector working with offenders. Clinks aims to ensure the sector and all those with whom they work, are informed and engaged in order to transform the lives of offenders.
The Young Review is funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust (www.barrowcadbury.org.uk). The Barrow Cadbury Trust is an independent, charitable foundation, committed to bringing about socially just change.
The Young Review has, since October 2013, convened a Task Group of representatives from the voluntary, statutory, private and academic sectors to explore the issue; consulting statutory agencies, visiting prisons and support projects and talking to current and former offenders. For members of the task group please visit www.youngreview.org