The Lammy Review into the treatment of, and outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system once again highlighted the significant race inequalities in our justice system. Clinks held two roundtable events at both Labour and Conservative Party Conferences, supported by Barrow Cadbury Trust, to discuss the Review’s findings and recommendations. Each week an attendee at one of the roundtables will write about their reflections on the review, in the context of their own position and sphere of influence, and what they plan to do in response to it.
The sixth blog in the series comes from Jacob Nas, Chief Executive at Nacro.
Nacro first highlighted disproportionality and the different outcomes that people from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities experience at all stages of the criminal justice system (CJS) over 30 years ago and have been arguing for a fairer justice system ever since. Therefore, the findings and recommendations from David Lammy’s Review into the treatment of and outcomes for BAME individuals in the CJS are very welcome. There are simply too many people from BAME communities in the CJS and the proven negative bias cannot continue. Over 30 years on from Nacro’s call to action on this issue we need to see change.
Although it could be argued that most of the facts contained in the Review were known, it shows through dispassionate factual and forensic analysis the bias and discrimination faced by BAME individuals in parts of the CJS. Through its 35 recommendations the Review provides a clear framework to improve the CJS for all as well as address disproportionality and racial bias.
Lammy sets out three key principles to achieve this including the need for there to be robust systems in place to ensure fair treatment in every part of the CJS. He also recommends transparency throughout the system to bring decision-making into the open and expose it to scrutiny.
The Review is right to reserve particular concern for BAME children in the youth justice system. Although the number of children and young people in custody has reduced significantly over recent years, the review points out that the proportion who are from BAME communities has risen from 25% to 41% in the decade 2006–2016. Similarly Nacro’s Beyond Youth Custody (BYC) programme found that BAME young people face particularly high levels of victimisation and exposure to crime, and that prejudice and discrimination harm BAME young people’s self-identity. Therefore, effective resettlement and rehabilitation must be culturally responsive and help to develop positive identity and self-belief.
Both the Young Report and the Prime Minister’s ‘race audit’ paint a similar picture whilst providing added impetus. The audit found that black people are at a disadvantage in several aspects of life, from the criminal justice system, to the housing market, to schools.
One area we were particularly pleased to see highlighted in this review was the issue of criminal records. Nacro has long called for a fundamental review of the criminal records system which is complex, confusing and in many cases arbitrary. For young people, looking to move away from crime and build their life, a criminal record can shackle them to their past and prevent them getting into a job, education or housing. It is absolutely right that we look at the system afresh and continue to push for reform.
Although the Lammy report does reference that many BAME prisoners – in particular young people – have mental health needs and that there is evidence that they experience differential treatment in having those needs addressed, Nacro would have liked to see more focus in the Review on aspects of mental health and race. We have been working in partnership with Clinks, the Race Equality Foundation, and the Association of Mental Health Providers (formerly the Mental Health Providers Forum) looking at the different experiences that people from BAME communities with mental health problems have of both the CJS and mental health services. Our briefing - Race, mental health and criminal justice: moving forward - made a series of recommendations including: services should address intersectionality; the role of faith; services designed and developed as a result of co-production with people with lived experience; peer support and advocacy to help navigate a system that is impersonal and often hostile; data triangulated to include mental health and ethnicity; and, a diverse workforce representing the communities it serves.
David Lammy’s report doesn’t talk specifically about the voluntary sector nor are any of the recommendations addressed to the sector. However, there is a clear role the voluntary sector can play. We deliver many of the services that: provide real alternatives to custody; prevent people entering the justice system in the first place; ensure effective resettlement takes place and addresses the specific needs of people from BAME communities; engage with and provide a voice for underserved and marginalised communities; and, advocate on behalf of people ill-served by the CJS. As such, the sector can play a key role in supporting Lammy’s recommendations.
Alongside actual delivery, the sector as a whole - and larger voluntary sector organisations in particular - need to play their part in holding the government to account to make sure that David Lammy’s recommendations are acted upon and implemented and the Review doesn’t simply ‘gather dust on a bookshelf’. We will certainly take up this challenge.
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