The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies has responded to the announcement that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has asked David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, to lead a review into 'racial bias' in the criminal justice system.
The Centre's deputy director, Will McMahon said,
'This review is long overdue, as is the implied acknowledgement that racism and discrimination is a problem in the criminal justice system.'
'However, the bias witnessed in criminal justice is connected to endemic racism and discrimination in wider society and I would urge David Lammy to explore the factors that lead to the over-policing and punishment of black and ethnic minority people that acts as the gateway to disproportionate punishment.'
The government announcement states that the review will focus specifically on issues arising from the point of arrest onwards and will report back in 2017.
'The review will address issues arising from the point of arrest onwards, including through the court system, in prisons and during rehabilitation in the wider community, in order to identify areas for reform and examples of good practice from the UK and beyond. Reporting back in Spring 2017, David Lammy has been asked for recommendations to ultimately reduce the proportion of BAME individuals in the Criminal Justice System and make sure that all suspects and offenders are treated equally, whatever their ethnicity.'
The Prime Minister said the review would address 'possible' differences in levels of prosecution and sentencing. He highlighted the fact that black people are more likely to be in prison than at a 'top' university, and are more likely to be sentenced to custody than white people.
For a number of years, the Centre has been concerned about the disproportionate punishment of BME people and the connections to social inequality and discrimination. Last month, we published Dangerous Associations: Joint Enterprise, gangs, and racism, a study examining processes of criminalisation that contribute to unequal outcomes for young Black, Asian and Minority ethnic people.
To read more about our work in this area, check out:
- The Justice Matters initiative where we are examining the 'ethnic penalty', exploring the wider social context of racism and discrimination in which the criminal justice system sits. So far we have published a series of blogs which offer compelling statistical evidence of the ethnic penalty in education, employment, poverty and financial inclusion. We have also run community events to see what black and minority ethnic people think the data means, and to see what light their experiences can shed on some of the processes that lead to such inequalities.
- The latest issue of our Criminal Justice Matters magazine with a special focus on the theme of 'Black lives matter'. Contributors examine racism in the UK criminal justice system, putting it into both a historical and social context.
- Watch footage from the Police corruption, racism and spying conference that took place in February 2015. A follow-up conference will be announced shortly, due to take place in April 2016.