National Body of Black Prisoner Support Groups Logo


In England and Wales approximately 5.6% of the population over the age of 10 years old can be described as Black. This can be broken down into the following ethnic categories. Black 1.8%, Asian 2.7% and other 1.1%. The arguments of a race differential presupposes that ethnic minority 'involvement' with agencies of the criminal justice process should reflect their proportionate levels within the population as whole.

The findings of the National Probation Service for England and Wales 1998 report conclude that Black people are disproportionately involved in all stages of the Criminal Justice Agencies. Furthermore where there are comparisons with previous years data, there is an increase in Black peoples 'entrance' into the Criminal Justice process through the 'stop and search' and at the end point regarding imprisonment.

  • The percentage of stop searches leading to arrest for BME persons is 11.8%
  • There is evidence to show that the prison population has grown by up to 60% of men from African Carribean communities entering prisons
  • Black and Minority Ethnic males make up 24.2% of the male prison population- between two and three times the proportion in the general population
  • Black and ethnic minority women make up 30.2% of the female prison population - over three times the proportion in the general population

Several indicators can be found in the profile of the Black and ethnic minority population and generally suggests why contact with the Criminal Justice System is so much higher. People from some Black and ethnic minority backgrounds are disproportionately likely to suffer from a range of aspects of social exclusion; and high levels of social exclusion are overwhelmingly to be found in the prison population.

Results from five pilot police force areas in magistrates, court decisions indicated that Black and Asian defendants were less likely to be found not guilty than white defendants (16% compared to 65%). Research also suggests that Black prisoners are likely to be given longer prison sentences than either White or Asian prisoners. In 1998 for young offenders, 75% of White, 77% of Asian and 89% of Black males had sentences over 12 months.

The figures for sentences over 4 years were 47%, 58% and 63% respectively. Length of service will have long-term consequences and a major impact on housing matters, employment or family links. The length of service affects the period before an offence is 'spent' under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Prison sentences in excess of 30 months never become 'spent' with knock on effects on employment prospects.

Research further suggests that Black and ethnic minority prisoners are more likely than white counterparts to have taken part in further education outside prison and have attended education classes in prison. Amongst young prisoners, they are also significantly more likely to begin and complete some form of vocational training while inside than White or Asian inmates (Reducing Offenders by ex-prisoners, July 2002).

These statistics outline the critical role that the voluntary and community sector offer to Black prisoners and their families, a role that they have been offering for many years. This also advocates that there should be agreed standards of delivery, accredited where necessary to bring added value services established to reduce re-offending from ex-prisoners.