French Justice Minister Rachida Dati (R) leaves the Feltham Young Offenders Institute in south west London, 27 July 2007, following a visit to the youth prison with the British Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers (2R). (Photo: Chris Young/AFP/Getty Images)

MORE than half of young boys in custody are from an ethnic background, it was revealed on Tuesday (29).

Figures from the Inspectorate of Prisons’ annual report show that 51 per cent of teenage boys in youth jails across England and Wales are of black or minority ethnic heritage.
The proportion is the highest record since figures were monitored in 2001; the figure was 48 per cent in 2017-18.

Findings showed that the experiences of those from a minority background to their white peers in custody was significantly different in various areas, including treatment from staff.
Those from an ethnic background were less likely to be asked about their welfare by staff, have access to a chaplain and helplines or feel that complaints were sorted out fairly and promptly.

Researchers also found that the proportion of ethnic males varied depending on the establishment, from one in five (21 per cent) at the Keppel Unit in West Yorkshire, to nearly three quarters (71 per cent) at Feltham, in Hounslow, south-west London.

The new details come after the 2017 report by Labour MP David Lammy which highlighted the disproportionate amount of ethnic minority young people offending for the first time, reoffending and in youth custody.

Among his findings were that the BAME proportion of young people offending for the first time rose from 11 per cent in 2006 to 19 per cent a decade later.

In response to the latest statistics, Lammy said he hoped it acted as a “wake-up call”.
“After years of cuts and austerity, we need to start funding youth services in urban communities properly so that fewer end up in custody,” the Tottenham MP said.
He expressed shock at the figures, referring to them as “alarming”.

Lammy added: “England and Wales are now hitting an American scale of disproportionality in our youth justice system. The government urgently needs to step up implementation of my review.

Britain’s Labour Party MP David Lammy speaks at a news conference. (Photo: Reuters/Peter Nicholls)

Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, also stated the disproportionality was “disturbing”.

The assessment covered the experiences of boys in five male youth offender institutes.
It also flagged up concerns that too many youngsters feel unsafe while in custody, saying signs of development had yet to translate into a significant shift in children’s observations of their treatment and environment.

In response to the report, the Ministry of Justice promised that youth justice was being reformed to focus on rehabilitation.

It added: “We recognise there is still more to do, including tackling disproportionality in the justice system, and a dedicated team is addressing this issue head on.”