SHAFAQNA – The race equality thinktank, the Runnymede Trust, and the University of Greenwich, investigated the treatment of male ethnic minority prisoners.
New research has found that black and Muslim offenders are more likely to be badly treated in jail, including being more likely to have restraint used against them.
The race equality thinktank, the Runnymede Trust, and the University of Greenwich, investigated the treatment of male ethnic minority prisoners, surveying over 340 inmates across four prisons and conducting over 100 face-to-face interviews.
They found that black and minority ethnic (BME) prisoners felt discriminated against based on race and religion, and were subject to cultural and racial stereotypes by prison officers.
The think tank also discovered:
● Being black or Muslim doubles a prisoner’s chances of having worse prison experiences compared to white prisoners
● 40% of black prisoners fell into this category compared to 21% of white inmates.
● Prisoners from gypsy, Roma and traveller communities are the next worst affected.
● Almost a third (29%) of Muslim prisoners did not have prison jobs or attend education courses, compared to 17% of Christian prisoners. This is an issue that impacts on rehabilitation.
● BME prisoners were more likely to be on the lowest rung of the prison rewards and punishment scheme, more likely to be put into segregation, and more likely to have restraint used against them.
● The Muslim prison population has more than doubled since 2002. And one in ten of the prison population are black (African and Caribbean) compared to four percent of the general population.
The Runnymede Trust and the Centre for Criminology at Greenwich University research mental health and suicide across all groups in prisons, but more specifically explore disproportionality issues in relation to BME prisoners. Their new research draws on prisoner surveys interviews, ethnographic and evaluation research
Last week the government pledged to increase numbers of BME officers in response to their race disparity audit. They calculate that the government will need to hire four times as many BME prison officers to reflect the prison population.
Dr Zubaida Haque, Runnymede Trust research associate, said: “When an offender goes to prison they lose their liberty to be in society, but that should not mean that they lose their rights, especially in relation to personal safety. We found that issues of equality and decency have become lost as a result of far-reaching staff cuts.”
“If the government quickly reverse staff cuts this will have a positive impact on mental health, suicides and disproportionality in prisons. But cultural awareness & unconscious bias training for prison officers is also critical in order to address the negative stereotypes and everyday racism that BME prisoners experience.”