A 10-point action plan
Agenda, in partnership with Hibiscus Initiatives, Muslim Women In Prison, Zahid Mubarek Trust, Criminal Justice Alliance and Women In Prison, has just (31 January 2022) published a 10-point action plan for change to improve outcomes and reduce inequalities and discrimination against Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women in contact with the criminal justice system.
The action plan, developed through consultation with women with lived experience as well as government officials and specialist organisations, provides clear steps that are needed to make a real difference in the lives of the most marginalised women in our community.
Too-often ignored, women face the ‘double disadvantage’ of gender inequality and racism when they encounter the criminal justice system. This stops them from getting the support they need both within the system and when they try to rebuild their lives outside, leaving them at risk of reoffending.
Women’s experiences of violence and abuse can drive them into the criminal justice system, with many serving short sentences for non-violent offences. Many face further abuse and vulnerability as they experience the ‘ripple effects’ of criminal justice involvement like worsening mental health, isolation, and poverty. For Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women these experiences can be compounded by racism and discrimination. In many cases women can face additional disadvantage in the form of faith inequalities when they encounter the criminal justice system.
The ten points of the action plan are reproduced in full below.
The Action Plan
- Train criminal justice staff on culture, ethnicity, race, faith, gender and anti-racism to meet the multiple and intersecting needs of Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women.
- Develop practical resources and guides for HO and MoJ staff on the rights of Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women who have language barriers and require support in different languages or in easy-to-read formats to incorporate their needs and ensure their experiences are taken into consideration throughout each stage of the CJS.
- Recruit Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women with lived experience of the CJS to become peer mentors and cultural mediators across the whole system.
- MoJ to publish their report on “Women in the Criminal Justice System” on an annual basis. This report should also identify and analyse in greater depth the key racial disparities in women’s experiences, including level and type of contact with, and experiences within, the criminal justice system.
- MoJ and HO to ensure use of diversion and out of court disposals (OOCD), and end the use of disproportionate custodial sentencing and remands, for Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women.
- Identify gaps in the services for Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women with insecure immigration statuses.
- Improve the effectiveness of current external scrutiny bodies to identify and challenge direct and indirect race, sex, and religious discrimination.
- Ensure Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women and their individual circumstances are properly taken into consideration by effective legal representation and other actions in court.
- Ensure funding and commissioning mechanisms and procedures are accessible to small and medium-sized, voluntary and specialist sector organisations to deliver specialist support for this group in all parts of the criminal justice system.
- Address issues identified in the Farmer Review around strengthening family, children, and community relationships in prison for Black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women, addressing their specific needs around contact, mediation, and risk.
Thanks to Clarke Sanders for kind permission to use the images in this post which were previously published on Unsplash.