by Randeep Rameesh
October 11, 2010
The proportion of black people in prison in England and Wales is higher than in the United States, a landmark report released today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission reveals.
The commission's first triennial report into the subject, How Fair is Britain, shows that the proportion of people of African-Caribbean and African descent incarcerated here is almost seven times greater to their share of the population. In the United States, the proportion of black prisoners to population is about four times greater.
The report, which aims to set out how to measure "fairness" in Britain, says that ethnic minorities are "substantially over-represented in the custodial system". It suggests many of those jailed have "mental health issues, learning disabilities, have been in care or experienced abuse".
Experts and politicians said over-representation of black men was a result of decades of racial prejudice in the criminal justice system and an overly punitive approach to penal affairs.
"People will be and should be shocked by this data," said Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust. "We have a tendency to say we are better than the US, but we have not got prison right."
Lyon said that although there had been "numerous efforts to address racism in the prison system … we have yet to get a better relationship between justice authorities and black communities. Instead we have ended up with mistrust breeding mistrust."
Read the rest of this Guardian article here.
Also see the How Fair is Britain report here.