Justice Matters - Tackling the ethnic penalty

Watch all the presentations from the February 2015
'Police corruption, spying and racism' conference here

At the Centre we believe the United Kingdom’s reliance on policing, prosecution and punishment is socially harmful, economically wasteful, and prevents us from tackling the complex problems our society faces in a sustainable, socially just manner. Justice Matters aims to turn this belief into action.


The ethnic penalty refers to the disadvantages that lead to a minority ethnic group faring less well than similarly placed ‘majority’ white people across a wide variety of social and economic life.

Click on the image to read our previous research and further expert analysis.

One of our focuses in year two of the initiative is the ‘ethnic penalty’ in punishment experienced by some minority ethnic groups in the UK.

It is common knowledge that some minority ethnic groups are significantly over-represented in penal processes from stop and search to imprisonment.

In contrast to the narrow spotlight on ‘pathways’ or ‘presence’ in penal systems and the work of the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and devolved justice departments, our focus here is on the environment that creates the context for such disproportionate and harmful punishment.

The challenge is to transform policy and practice in response to this context.

Our plans

In the first phase of ‘Justice Matters – tackling the ethnic penalty’ the Centre has:

  • Published a series of online comment pieces outlining the reach and depth of the ethnic penalty across the field of social policy for the ethnic group that experiences a significant penalty in the penal system: young black men.
  • Published a #blacklivesmatter special issue of criminal justice matters magazine exploring the different forms of institutionalised racism.
  • Engaged in discussions through guest articles, social media, and one to one conversations, that explores this ethnic penalty and how to begin to seek solutions to it.
  • Held an event on Wednesday 28 January 2015 to bring together individuals and groups who share our concern so that we can work together to transform policy and practice.

Want to know more?

Will McMahon explains the thinking behind this project here. You can read the first comment pieces on the ethnic penalty and poverty and primary and secondary education. You can read all the ethnic penalty content here.

Get involved

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