A year ago Clinks and the Black Training and Enterprise Group, working with Baroness Young of Hornsey, launched the Young Review report into improving outcomes for young black and Muslim men in the Criminal Justice System in the House of Lords. This was the culmination of many months’ work and the invaluable contributions from a Task Group of individuals from the voluntary, private and academic sectors.
What has happened since the launch of the report? Where are we now with race equality in the Criminal Justice System? And what’s next to move this agenda forward?
Setting the challenge
To finally launch the report in the grand surroundings of the House of Lords’ River Room amongst the many individuals who contributed to it, along with Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, and Simon Hughes, the then Minister for Justice, was a pretty momentous occasion (read my thoughts on it back then here). We were not, however, complacent about the challenge the report set.
We were clear in writing and launching the report that it could not be another publication that, after initial expressions of concern at its findings, was left to gather dust. The disproportionate numbers of black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the Criminal Justice System, and the poor outcomes they face, were well documented and acknowledged prior to the publication of our report. The important task now was in prompting vigorous and committed leadership to drive action on the agenda forward.
The most recent race in the CJS statistics
Just last week NOMS published the latest statistics on race in the criminal justice system and the Offender Equalities Annual Report. Once again they show significant and concerning disparities between BAME representation in the CJS and white representation.
At 31 March 2015, 25.7% of prison population self-identified as being from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background. This represents no change from the previous published statistics. The black prison population has slightly decreased from 13.1% in 2013 to 12.4% in March 2015. However this may be explained by a change in the profile of the foreign national prisoner population which has seen a slight increase in white prisoners and a slight decrease in black. Even with this decrease black people are still substantially over represented in the prison population compared to the general population, of which they make up 2.9%, according to the 2011 census. The Muslim prison population has slightly increased from 13.4% in 2013 to 14.4% in March 2015. This is compared to 4.2% of the general population according to the 2011 census.
The Young Review Phase II
Those of us who worked on the Young Review could see these statistics as an indication of failure, but we were always clear that progress on this issue would not happen overnight or indeed over the course of a year.
Improving outcomes for young black and/or Muslim men in the Criminal Justice System requires long term commitment. The Young Review has therefore been continuing its work with communities, voluntary sector organisations, ex-offenders, private and public providers and government to address this challenge.
With generous support from the Barrow Cadbury Trust, Lankelly Chase Foundation and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation the Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) are leading the next phase of this work.
Since March an interim advisory group to the Ministry of Justice and National Offender Management Service has been meeting to agree a set of key indicators to monitor implementation of the Young Review’s recommendations.
The permanent members of the advisory group are currently being recruited. These are voluntary positions for an initial three year term. The people appointed will reflect a wide range of skills and experience but critically will have a strong desire and the knowledge, skills and experience to make a real difference.
A successful roundtable was also held with representatives of the Community Rehabilitation Companies and we know that a number of them are taking our recommendations forward in the delivery of probation services.
Both Clinks and BTEG have continued to support local organisations and activity in this area. Clinks recently held a workshop with Safer Lewisham Partnership to explore the Young Review’s recommendations and consider learning and implications for services in the borough.
BTEG held a workshop at the recent Youth Justice Convention that showcased Hammersmith and Fulham’s Youth Offending Team’s initial work to address disproportionality, working with social enterprise Wipers.
The permanent advisory group will be in place in the new year and BTEG are also recruiting for an advocate to work on a consultancy basis to develop and deliver a clear strategy and senior level engagement for the Young Review Phase II.
One year on from the publication of the Young Review report, we remain committed to taking this work forward. We know that tackling entrenched inequality is not a simple endeavour. We will work alongside our partners and members to ensure that the overrepresentation of young black and/or Muslim men in the CJS remains clearly on MoJ and NOMS’ agenda and that action is undertaken to address it.