Bias exists against black people throughout the Criminal Justice System’s processes21 June 2023
‘While black people are more likely to be held in prison to await their trials and sentencing, and for longer periods, research suggests they are also far more likely to be acquitted than white defendants after their time on remand.’
Alarming statistics from the Guardian recently show worsening trends in the representation of ethnicity on remands in prison, despite decades of many reviews and investigations highlighting the institutional racism destroying lives and families; ‘The percentage difference in the amount of time spent on remand by black prisoners compared with white has more than doubled since 2015, rising from a 33% disparity to 71%’. Last year, the average number of days spent on remand by black prisoners was 302, compared to 177 days for white remand prisoners.
Beyond the headlining grabbing statistic of the 71% disparity between the time spent by black people on remand in comparison with their white counterparts lies another statistic that puts this situation in context and calls for an urgent response; research suggests that black people are also more likely to be acquitted than white defendants, after their time on remand; In 2021, criminal justice charity Fair Trials found that 14% percent of black people on remand, were acquitted at trial, in comparison to 8% of white people.
This evidences the bias that exists against black people throughout the processes of our criminal justice system, that those with enforcement powers presume them to be guilty but also see them as problematic, hence locking them away. The psychological bias to see ‘different’ as problematic is at the root of this. A desire to create uniformity is unhealthy but also sinister because it suggests that there are ‘normal’ cultures and behaviours when in fact, cultural diversity and expression is our right.
For those experiencing mental health and managing neurodiversity, grasping the ‘standard English’ expectation of speech, gesture, language, and behaviours is impossible. It is like being asked to speak a language you do not understand. Cruelly, the inability to conform to Eurocentric and neurotypical culture is a vulnerability in our society. It condemns Persons of Colour, disabled people, and those experiencing mental health challenges to be treated with suspicion, discomfort, fear or contempt.
The government’s response to the evidence of grave bias stated that they are addressing the ‘entire process’ from young people and criminality to diverse recruitment. In their 2021 report on Ethnicity and the Criminal Justice System, the government were able to evidence small increases in ethnic diversity among practitioners being appointed to roles within the system. Their spokesperson also shared that anti-bias training is being delivered to the judiciary. We believe this is vital to creating the cultural shift needed within the CJS and, indeed, in all institutions carrying such power over the lives of vulnerable people.
At Social Interest Group, we take a holistic approach to supporting our residents and participants. We know that early intervention and prevention from police and judicial systems can change the trajectory of these statistics because we offer training modules that encourage people to challenge institutional thinking, and this leads them to see broader possibilities about the human being before them, as well as the options available to take a compassionate and well-informed approach. We actively partner with a wide range of agencies with whom we act on behalf of our residents and participants. We are delighted to collaborate progressively with the Police and Local Authorities in our Boroughs and Counties.