On Wednesday 28 January we held an event, 'Justice Matters for young black men: tackling the ethnic penalty'. About 40 people came together to discuss the social context that forms the backdrop to the disproportionate and harmful punishment experienced by young black men.
Our Deputy Director Will McMahon kicked us off with a talk about exactly what we're aiming to find out, and ultimately do, in this project. He set the discussion up with these questions:
- what is happening in society that is creating the context for the disproportionate punishment of young black men?
- what processes are in play that seem to be funnelling some young black men towards prison even before contact with the police?
- what different policies and practices can we build to prevent this outcome?
- how can we rethink the configuration of policy and practice - for instance in housing, education, health, social security and employment - so that many current criminal justice responses are not required at all?
Our Research and Policy Assistant Matt Ford has spent the last six months examining data on different aspects of the 'ethnic penalty' and presented his findings. The data clearly showed that even when black and minority people have similar backgrounds to white people they fare much worse in terms of living standards, education and employment. Dr Anthony Gunter from the University of East London made the final presentation. He talked about his own research and how growing up in increasingly fragmented communities affected young black men.
These short talks set the stage for the discussion. We debated a range of issues including institutional and individual racism, the injustices caused by the untenable concept of the 'gang', and the lack of voice that black people have in society.
Many of these issues were picked up in early February at the 'Police corruption, racism and spying' conference organised with collaboration with The Monitoring Group, Tottenham Rights and Imran Khan & Partners.
We feel really positive about what might come out of this project. We hope that this event is the start of a collaboration between the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and other organisations and individuals, based on a broad common understanding of the problem and a common search for alternative ways of doing things.
If you're interested in tackling the ethnic penalty and want to get on board please contact Will McMahon.