External Affairs Blog – Women, Race and the Criminal Justice System

Women, Race and the Criminal Justice System

Ever heard of Cultural Mediation?

Hibiscus Initiatives have shared new research findings and recommendations based on their work with a focus group of 10 service users. Sadly, the research confirms what we heard from our residents and participants; ‘The research found that Black and minoritised women are disproportionately affected by violence, including physical, psychological and sexual violence, and that they often face complex barriers to reporting these crimes.’

Further, black, minoritised and migrant women in contact with the Criminal Justice System face compounding issues from criminalisation to barriers to accessing healthcare. The complexities created by existing vulnerabilities such as adverse mental health, financial insecurity and social marginalisation, combined with multiple barriers to accessing safety and support, cause a real and profound impact on the physical and mental health of women of colour.

At SIG, we want to be clear and vocal about the lived experience of the people we support, but we are also solution-oriented. We welcome Hibiscus’ recommendations to address the needs of women of colour practically and powerfully. Their report suggests that as well as improvements to accessing safe and adequate healthcare, housing and stable employment, cultural mediation needs to be applied;

“The idea of cultural mediation is to create a space where women can use their own words and languages to express what they are going through. In this context, the cultural mediator is asked to be much more than an interpreter, rather an expert at finding equivalences between languages.”

This could provide a practical and empowering solution for women if the mediation is done through an advocate who supports them in expressing themselves, their needs and aspirations and ensures that the listening party is objectively understanding and grasping what is being expressed accurately and without the lens of their own bias or interpretation.

Skilled advocacy can support both Service Users and Providers to communicate effectively to find the best solution the first time around. As well as helping to reduce the prolonged inequality and challenges faced by women of colour experiencing intersectionality, it can help organisations to deliver efficient service.

Continual cuts to vital services for vulnerable people for over a decade increasingly mean that budgets must be managed carefully, and delivering person-centred care, support, and provision of resources, enables this.

Fair and effective support empowers women to heal and work towards recovery and restoration of their health and lives. No institution has the right to misuse resources, but they do so when they fail to actively listen and provide appropriate solutions.

Social Interest Group can help to challenge this because WE are advocates for our residents and participants; working to build relationships with them and drawing on our substantial levels of experience and knowledge in this sector, we actively support them to express themselves to professionals within the UK’s Health and Social Care/Criminal Justice System(s).

We know our Residents and Participants are confident that we can correctly interpret their needs and aspirations to professionals. However, whilst we may not wear a uniform or have enforcement powers, we are recognised experts in our field. We won’t hesitate to challenge or demand fair, practical solutions and resources for those we support daily. We are Cultural Mediators!

Balraj Ballagan is Policy and Impact Manager at Social Interest Group