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Black children over-represented in prison

Restraint used disproportionately on young black men in prison

prison_1ap.jpg5th November 2010: While overall child custody levels are dropping across England and Wales, black and minority ethnic (BME) children are still disproportionately represented in child jails, a new report by the Howard League has revealed.

The Howard League for Penal Reform analysed youth justice board figures which reveal that between January 2006 and August 2010, there was an overall reduction of 22 per cent in the number of under- 18s in custody.

It also emerged that there was a 30 per cent reduction in the number of white under- 18s in custody, and just a nine per cent reduction in the number of BME children in prison.

These figures are part of significant fall in the number of under-18s in child jails over the past decade.

The number of children in custody has fallen to 2,193 in September 2010 from a peak of 3,175 in October 2002. The fall in child custody levels reflects considerable efforts by youth offending teams, the government, and youth justice organisations to divert children away from custody and into more appropriate sentences in the community.

Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform Frances Crook said: “Prison monitoring already shows that restraint is used disproportionately on young black men in prison. We know that black boys are 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white, and now we know that black children are being kept in prison while their white counterparts are being diverted to more appropriate sentences. Black children are already over represented in the criminal justice system and we must address this imbalance.”

A recent Howard League report looking at young people in custody (18-21 year olds), “Access to Justice Denied”, found that of almost 300 requests for legal help from young people in custody, 80% of those struggling to access legal advice were from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, suggesting that BME prisoners are at a disadvantage in the prison environment.

A recent report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also found that black people are five times more likely than white people to be in prison.

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