In September 2017 David Lammy published his hard hitting assessment of institutional racism within the criminal justice system. The Lammy Review detailed racial disparity at every level, see my infographic summarising some of the key findings below.
The MoJ accepted all 35 Lammy recommendations and its fundamental challenge that government and criminal justice agencies must either explain the reasons for racial disparity in a particular situation and if it cannot do so, reform the system to eradicate racism.
Last week it published its second progress report Tackling Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: 2020 Update .
The first update was published in October 2018.
This 81 page document is not an easy one to summarise. Unsurprisingly, the endemic racism uncovered by David Lammy is not susceptible to a fast fix. The Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, in his foreword to the update, highlights areas where he feels progress is being made, albeit much of it is still at the stage of getting better quality data and rasing the awareness of the different ways in which the system causes disproportionality.
This is, perhaps, inevitable and the MoJ has taken steps to address every one of the 35 recommendations in Mr Lammy’s original report.
"in Youth Justice we are providing tools to help frontline services better understand and address the needs of BAME children, working with the Magistrates Association to build awareness of disproportionality, and helped to secure £1m in funding to harness the power of sport to improve outcomes for BAME children at risk of entering the system. In prisons we are improving how we handle complaints, the use of force, and the system of incentives.
We are committed to learning and improving, which is why we are publishing ever more data split by ethnicity, as well as trying innovative ways to tackle racial disparity. Trials are underway with probation teams writing pre-sentence reports to eliminate bias, and with police forces around opportunities for early rehabilitation.
It is crucial, if everyone is to have confidence in our system, that the people working in it reflect the diversity of Britain today. We are taking positive steps on this – working towards our target of 14% BAME new starters in the prison and probation service; and getting 55 talented BAME Lawyers into the latest round of a programme to support under-represented individuals interested in joining our world-class Judiciary."
The update is divided into five main sections:
- Cross Cutting work
- Youth Justice
- Charging decisions to court
- Prisons and rehabilitation and
- Next steps
There is also an appendix with an update on each of the army’s 35 recommendations.
For the purpose of this blog post I have focused on the “Prisons and rehabilitation” section.
In addition to attempts to develop a more diverse workforce, this section covers a number of initiatives including:
- New Incentives and Complaints policies
- A new Maturity assessment screening tool in order to help prisons and probation determine how many young adults are likely to require services or interventions to promote maturation, as well as help those with the lowest level of maturity.
- The new Dynamic Framework commissioning model of the revised probation service should allow for flexible commissioning rehabilitation and resettlement to support to meet the needs of different groups of service users, including people from BAME backgrounds.
- New resources intended to help “debiase” decision-making in court, prison and parole.
- New guidance around the preparation of Pre-Sentence Reports.
- Work on strengthening prisoners’ family ties which included an equalities analysis as part of the new policy development process.
- A (successful) recruitment campaign to improve diversity among Parole Board members
Although the update provides comprehensive details on what the government is doing on each of Laramie’s 35 recommendations, it does not include an assessment of the impact of any of this work. For the MOJ’s efforts to tackle disproportionality to gain proper credibility, this will need to be rectified, especially since we know that, for instance, the proportion of our youth custody population who come from BAME backgrounds has actually increased since the Lammy report was published.