Last Wednesday evening, at the House of Lords, Baroness Young of Hornsey hosted a launch event for the final report of the Young Review into improving outcomes for young black and/or Muslim men in the Criminal Justice System (CJS), attended by Minster for Justice Simon Hughes.
For me this was the culmination of more than a year’s intensive work. In partnership with BTEG, Clinks has supported the review by convening a task group of representatives from the voluntary, statutory, private and academic sectors; visiting prisons and voluntary organisations working with offenders, and meeting with offenders and ex-offenders to inform the final report and recommendations.
As I stood in the River Room in the House of Lords, surrounded by the individuals we have worked with over the last 12 months and who have provided us with invaluable input, I was struck by how the mix of people contrasted with those that usually occupy the building.
During the last year, I have attended many meetings in the House of Lords. It's a place I find both historically impressive and bizarrely outdated in equal measure. Walking through its corridors, with one of the few black female peers, the extent to which the highest decision-making body in the country does not reflect the diversity of our population is shocking.
However, here we were, in one of the grandest rooms in the building surrounded by a true mix of people from a range of sectors, ethnicities and walks of life.
And this theme of challenging the past continued in the speeches. In his speech, National Offender Management Service chief executive Michael Spurr thanked the review for making him feel 'uncomfortable' and for providing the external pressure to put this issue back at the top of the criminal justice agenda.
This illustrates the vital role that all the organisations and individuals we spoke to have played. The issues of over-representation and poor outcomes for young Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) men the CJS are by no means new, but the voice of the voluntary and community sector and those they represent has brought the issue back into the corridors of power.
In many ways I could view last Wednesday as the final event of a large project but the fact this was a launch reminds me that we still have a long way to go. The task now is to focus on our recommendations, and to try and ensure that they are realised. And there are positive signs:
Minister Simon Hughes told the launch that the he thought our suggestion for legislation to require providers to meet the needs of BAME offenders was both conceivable and achievable.
Government has also committed to working with us to set up an advisory group to take this and our other recommendations forward.
Coming away from the event, I felt a great sense of gratitude to everyone we've worked with, and of optimism that by continuing to work together we can improve outcomes for BAME offenders. Clinks will continue to work with BTEG, Baroness Young and the wider sector to explore next steps; keep an eye on Light Lunch, our Twitter feed, and the Clinks website for updates.
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Here's the link to the White Paper launched today 'A Smarter Approach to Sentencing'. Clinks will be responding on behalf of voluntary organisations working in the criminal justice system. #Sentencing