Young black people are far more likely to be jailed than young white people, according to a new government report. The full “exploratory study” into the treatment of young people by the criminal justice system will be released later this week and is expected to include strong recommendations for action. The report received a boost when Theresa May gave a speech on the steps of No 10 in which she said, ““If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white.”
According to the report, young black people are nine time more likely to be jailed in England and Wales – suggesting that the way they are treated by the criminal justice system needs to be reformed.
Alarming New Figures on Young Black People Behind Bars
Around nine in every 10,000 black youngsters between the ages of 10 and 17 were locked up in young offenders’ institutions, secure training centres or secure children’s homes from 2015 to 2016 – compared with one in every 10,000 for young white people, four in 10,000 for mixed ethnic young people and two in 10,000 for Asian and other young people. The report found that overall, the number of young people in custody had fallen across all ethnic groups. But the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic people behind bars has fallen much slower and now represents 21% of the young custodial population.
The study, led by Labour MP David Lammy, identified a number of factors which may be contributing to the large number of young black people being locked up. While the adult prison population in England and Wales has soared, the number of under-18s held in the secure youth custody has fallen from close to 3,000 in 2007/08 to below 1,000.
The study concludes, “The analysis in this report indicates that the high proportion of young black people in custody is likely to be driven by arrest rates, custodial sentencing at the magistrates’ court and the fact that they have spent longer in the custodial estate on average than other groups in the past four years.”
Disproportionality Found at Many Stages of the Criminal Justice Process
Young black people were found to be more likely to be identified as “gang concerns” when they entered custody, and young black males were three times more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts. Disproportionality was also found at magistrates’ court, where young black males were more likely to be sentenced.
Young black people have spent longer in custody in the last four years, due to convictions for violence, theft and possession of weapons. And reoffending rates were found to be lower among young white people.