Campaign challenges race inequalities in criminal justice system

A coalition of 60 voluntary organisations has launched the Race for Justice campaign to challenge the over-representation and inequalities faced by black and minority ethnic people within the criminal justice system.

The campaign is led by organisations who work with BME offenders, ex-offenders and their families and is backed by criminal justice charity Nacro and the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (SCMH). It makes a number of recommendations to influence criminal justice policy.

In its report Less equal than others, the campaign highlights that while BME groups make up 9% of the overall population, they account for 29% of the prison population. In comparison to their white counterparts, BME groups are more likely to get prosecuted and receive longer prison sentences for similar offences and are less likely to be cautioned or get bail. 

More accountability

Race for Justice calls for criminal justice agencies to be more accountable for their treatment of BME groups through the introduction of targets to reduce disproportionality. It also wants the government to introduce a baseline of current funding for the BME voluntary sector, which, campaigners argue, has to divert much needed effort away from addressing the imbalances to short-term fundraising.  

The campaign is also pushing for a taskforce to develop rehabiliation services for BME offenders and for court diversion schemes for those with mental health and drug problems, a call which has been welcomed by the SCMH. 

“We support Race for Justice’s call for court diversion schemes to support Black and minority ethnic offenders with mental health and drug problems to be properly resourced,” said SCMH director of prisons and criminal justice Sean Duggan. “Diversion schemes must be skilled in working with Black people and in ensuring they get access to mental health care that is appropriate to their individual needs.”

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