MORE Asians, blacks and ethnic minority youths are in young offender institutions compared with white people, government figures show.
In May, there were 415 black, Asian and minority young people in custody in England and Wales compared with 396 whites, Ministry of Justice figures showed.
This was the first time the monthly youth custody figures showed a higher number of black and minority ethnic youths than whites in young offender institutions.
“The latest youth custody statistics are a cause of great concern, as they demonstrate the sheer extent to which the criminal justice system is disproportionately propelling black and minority ethnic children into prison,” Pippa Goodfellow, director of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, was quoted as saying by The Times.
In 2017, a landmark review by Labour MP David Lammy raised concerns about an increase in the proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic youth prisoners.
There is no one reason for this disproportionality, said Lammy, adding that it was a result of a number of complex issues that have come together these past few years.
“These include cuts to local authorities, police, increased deprivation within housing estates and reduced funding for youth and mental health services,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
A lack of diversity within the judiciary was also an issue, said Lammy.
“Courts are too distant from the communities they put on trial. As I have consistently recommended, we desperately need to find more black judges, particularly females, who are chronically underrepresented in our courts across London and the UK,” he said.
Labour MP Lucy Powell also pointed at prejudice in the criminal justice system, saying the police, prosecution lawyers and judges are predominantly white and middle class. “And they are in danger of having inherent prejudices that mean when presented with similar sets of circumstances, but involving defendants from different social backgrounds, they will come to different conclusions,” she said.
Meanwhile, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said they were working to address “these deeply rooted problems.”
“We have . . . been working to improve black, Asian and ethnic minority children’s understanding of legal advice,” the spokesperson said.