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Policy Areas

A fundamental principle of justice is that people should be treated equally under the law.

Evidence of disproportionate outcomes for people from Black, Asian and minority communities consistently shows that our criminal justice system fails to meet this standard. 

In the interest of a fairer justice system, equality requires perpetual vigilance. It is vital that criminal justice agencies are held to account to their public sector equalities duties and seek to ‘explain or reform’ racial disparities in the spirit of the Lammy Review with a clear strategy on how the recommendations will be implemented.

EQUAL intends to contribute to that effort in the following areas:

1. Prisons and Probation

About Prisons

There are 118 prisons in England and Wales, holding people who have been sentenced or are on remand awaiting trial for a range of crimes. It is a mixture of publicly and privately run institutions.

The UK currently has the highest rate of imprisonment in Western Europe and imprisons a higher proportion of its black population than the United States. Black people account for 13.1% of the prison population, compared with approximately 2.9% population recorded in the 2011 Census and since 2002 the percentage of Muslims in prisons has nearly doubled from 7.7% to 13.4% (Muslims make up only 4.2 % of the general population). There are proportionately more young BAME male prisoners than older ones, with BAME representation in the 15-17 age group the highest at 43.7%.


About Probation

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for providing probation services in England and Wales.

In 2014/15 the MoJ introduced major changes to the probation services through the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. This initiative outsourced the management of low to medium risk offenders to Company Rehabilitation Companies (CRC’s) and implemented one national body (the National Probation Service) to manage high risk offenders. The new structures experienced major problems from their inception. As a result, the MoJ took the decision to re-tender the contracts with CRC’s (two years before the end of the contract term) and to carry out public consultations to inform the redesign of probation services.

Probation articles


2. Policing of BAME Young People

The Metropolitan Police’s Gangs Matrix is a database of individuals involved in gang activity, so-called gang nominals, across the capital. The Matrix was established in the wake of the 2011 London riots and is a database of suspected gang members in London. It was conceived as a risk-management tool that focuses on preventing serious violence. However, various reports, such as Amnesty International’s Trapped in the Matrix, warn that it is fundamentally unfit for purpose, racially discriminatory and breaches human rights law. The Information Commissioner following the launch of its review into the matrix in December 2018 has issued an enforcement notice on the Met Police.

Shortly afterwards MOPAC launched the report of its review into the matrix.


3. Youth Justice System

There are now less than one thousand young people in custody but over half (51%) of the young people in Youth Offending Institutions are from BAME backgrounds

The YJB has not produced a strategy for effectively reducing the disproportionate number of BAME young people in custody.

In London over 60% of young people in the youth justice system are from BAME backgrounds

Reoffending rates are significantly higher for black young males.


EQUAL policy positions cover

EQUAL works across three main policy priority areas. 

We believe an integrated approach is necessary to ensure race inequality is addressed effectively in the criminal justice system.

 Our 2022 policy update outlines our view on what needs to change, and key actions for Government departments and bodies.

Read EQUAL’s Policy Positions for 2022.