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Wanted: New ways to stop black boys ending up in prison

Blog by EQUAL Chair, Iqbal Wahhab.

Let me throw some disturbing facts at you:

· Black children are four times more likely to be arrested than white children.

· Since 2005 the percentage of black youth in custody has doubled

· Currently, over 50% of the youth justice system is made up of BAME young people.

What’s more, whilst the numbers for black youth entering the system is heavily increasing, the figure for white children is decreasing.

What we call the “school to prison pipeline” is accelerating uncontrollably and next to nothing is being done about it. The police are oblivious of how they conduct stop and search. It’s been over two years since they were called out on the discriminatory effects of the Met's Gangs Matrix yet it still continues. Repeated demands for these programmes to be dropped have been ignored so I have asked EQUAL to look at more practical ways of engaging with the police by putting forward safeguards on stop and search procedures and looking at ways of reforming the matrix so it becomes less discriminatory.

Here's how institutional racism works. Two years ago, Theresa May created a £90 million fund to tackle ethnic disparities in the field of employment. That was how it started and this is how, once civil servants interfered, it ended up with race no longer the focus.

Links between worklessness, poverty and crime have repeatedly been proven as much as how the criminal justice system disproportionally affects ethnic minorities. Yet on and on it goes.

We need to be more innovative and there are pockets of good practice which need amplifying. The brilliant initiative Divert has created an app so police officers seeing young people loitering, potentially on the brink of committing a crime, can approach them and ask them if they’d be interested in training for a job, open up a smartphone so they can connect them to training providers so they don’t end up being part of these terrible statistics. More initiatives like this need to develop and at the same time we need to more rigorously pursue activities from a much younger age rather than deal with the outcomes of a system which so often sets particular groups up to fail.

With such a huge Black Lives Matter campaign and probably the most impactful Black History Month ever just over, if we can’t do this now, when will we?


To continue the conversation, EQUAL is hosting a live panel discussion on The Injustice of Youth Justice on 25th November 2020, at 6pm.

Register for #TimeToTalk here.

Details of The Time To Talk event hosted  by EQUAL