Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women in the criminal justice system experience a “double disadvantage” a report by Agenda and Women In Prison reveals.
The report commissioned to feed into the Lammy Review explored the experiences of BAME women across three focus groups in two prisons and one community-based project.
Set against a backdrop of black women being 25% more likely than white women to be sentenced to custody at crown court, the report also highlights the disproportional outcomes for certain offences. For example, for every 100 white women sentenced to custody for drug offences, 227 black women received custodial sentences.
The impact of these sentences has far reaching ramifications for family and the community. It is estimated that more than 17,000 children are separated from their mothers because of imprisonment. This has a particularly devastating affect on the black community since more than half of African and Caribbean families in the UK is headed by a single parent.
Focus group participants discussed the racism they faced across the entire justice system and cited language barriers and important factors such as mental health issues not being taken into consideration as further compounding the discrimination.
Poor diversity within the prison staff group was also pointed at as a reason for the lack of cultural understanding. Participants claim that the few black prison officers there are get treated with suspicion if they interact with women of their own cultural background so avoided doing so.
Interestingly, women in the community-based project felt that a positive relationship with their probation officer contributed to their rehabilitation. “If [probation officer’s name: X] was around a long time ago, I would stop shoplift, probably I would stop smoking… Knowing X, I go to rehab… Knowing X, I don’t steal,” said one participant.
The report concludes with a range of recommendations including reviewing how joint enterprise laws affect women; ensuring remand is not overused; and focusing efforts on making sure prison and probation staff reflect the gender and ethnicity of clients they serve.
To read the report in full visit: http://www.womeninprison.org.uk/perch/resources/double-disadvantage-1.pdf