Prison Service accused of 'racial discrimination'

The Prison Service has been accused of racial discrimination, according to the findings of a Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) investigation published today.

The CRE probe uncovered "evidence leading to the finding of unlawful racial discrimination" and also catalogues 14 areas of failure uncovered by the investigation.

The CRE said that the areas of failure were found "across the board" in the three prisons examined for the purposes of the investigation: HMP Brixton, Feltham Young Offenders Institute and HMP Parc.

Part 1 of the report, published in July this year, looked specifically at the circumstances leading to the murder of Zahid Mubarek by his racist cellmate in Feltham Young Offenders Institute in March 2000.

One in four prisoners is from an ethnic minority, compared with one in 11 amongst the whole population in England and Wales. And, this "disproportion" is growing, said CRE Chair Trevor Phillips.

Between 1999 and 2002, the total prison population grew by just over 12%, but the number of black prisoners rose by over 50%.

"This is therefore an issue that we cannot afford to ignore," he continued.

Mr Phillips added: "What’s most shocking about this report is that, despite numerous wake-up calls, Prison Service managers persistently failed to tackle racism in their institutions and that very often they also failed to implement their own policies on racial discrimination, abuse and harassment."

The Prison Service have committed themselves to implementing a "detailed action plan" in order to deliver race equality throughout the service.

In all, the CRE made 17 findings of unlawful racial discrimination against HM Prison Service, the majority of which relate to individual cases.

These individual findings, and the finding in respect of Zahid Mubarek, led the CRE to make two overall findings in respect of HM Prison Service’s "failure to deliver equivalent protection to all prisoners in its care or to deliver race equality in the way it employed staff or treated prisoners".


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