Prison changes after Mubarek case failing to reduce discrimination

Black and ethnic minority prisoners are still more likely to experience discrimination than white inmates despite progress in race equality schemes, an independent study has concluded.

The race review 2008 found the experience of prisoners from ethnic minorities and staff “had not been transformed” despite “considerable investment in procedural changes.”

The review, following progress since the racist murder of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham young offender institution in 2000, found prisoners from ethnic minorities were still subjected to differential treatment.

Black prisoners were “consistently more likely” to be on basic regime, be accommodated in segregation units and have force used against them.

Overall, black prisoners made up 15% of the prisoner population – compared with 2.2% of the general population, according to figures cited in the review. This meant a higher proportion of black people were in prisons in the UK than in the US.

The review also acknowledged progress by the prison service in implementing systems to manage race equality, including performance targets focusing on prisoners and staff, increasing diversity in the workforce and handling of racist incident reporting. 

The review team, made up of practitioners and organisations, will make recommendations as part of the National Offender Management Service single equality scheme for 2009-12, to be published in April.

The review tracked progress since a 2003 Commission for Racial Equality inquiry that focused on Brixton and Parc prisons and Feltham YOI, where Zahid Mubarek was murdered by his cellmate.

In 2006 the public inquiry into Zahid’s death identified 13 failings in race relations at Feltham and made 88 recommendations.

In response to the review’s findings, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said while she commended progress, many prisoners from ethnic minorities continued to experience “unfair and unequal treatment.”

“The stark question facing the Prison Service is what more must it do to root out the racism still embedded in the culture of our overcrowded jails,” she added.

Phil Wheatley, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, and justice minister Shahid Malik both admitted there was “no room for complacency”.

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