Double Disadvantage

The Lammy Review, chaired by David Lammy MP, is an independent review of the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system. Due to be fully published in the Summer 2017, emerging findings have begun to show severe disproportionality in the criminal justice system.

The report, published in September 2017, found racial bias to be prevelant at every stage of the criminal justice system and that discrimination and a harmful impact continues after release. One finding showed that for every 100 white women handed a custodial sentence at Crown Court for drug offences, 227 black women were sentenced to custody. Key recommendation include exploring opportunities to have your criminal record 'sealed' upon seeking employment, establishing a representative judiciary and magistracy by 2025, and greater use of diversion from custody into rehabilitation programmes for low level offences.

>>> READ The Lammy Review

As part of the Review Women in Prison along with Agenda were asked to ensure the voices of women were being heard within The Lammy Review. We ran focus groups in prison and the community to hear the personal experiences of women from their experience of the courts, in prison and on release. David Lammy also met with a group attending our women's centre in London, The Beth Centre.

>>> READ WIP's and Agenda's Report "Double Disadvantage"

Our report found that BAME women felt:

  • They were not treated fairly in court and were unjustly penalised by judges and juries, who they felt were often made up of white men.
  • They were not listened to or informed about court proceedings, e.g. only one woman out of 20 knew whether she had had a pre-sentence report or not.
  • They were discriminated against and experienced racism in prison from both staff and other prisoners.
  • The impact on families was far-reaching, with children often separated from their mothers.
  • Some women were ostracised by their communities after being sent to prison.

Women are more likely than men to be remanded and then not receive a custodial sentence.

Evidence suggests BAME women face further discrimination, with black women much more likely than white women to be given custodial sentences for the same offences. 

Key Quotes

“Most of the jury, not most, all of them were not of my ethnic background, all of them were white and they were all of old age, none of them were from my age group or one of them of my ethnic minority…..I think juries make up their mind from when they see you they have something in their thoughts already from when they clap eyes on you.”

“Mine was all white with one Asian man and when I spoke to my solicitor I said I thought it was supposed to be a different mix of cultures and background and my advice from my solicitor was that if I challenge it, it would come across as that I was racist, he said it would be another mark on your character so just don't say anything.”

“I had a pretty old jury and I was thinking well I’m young and I’m black, hmm…what are my chances?”

“I've never heard so much racism until I came to jail.”

“I think they [the officers] should have more cultural awareness training because at the end of the day it's 2016 and they are still going on with the same old 'if black people are loud they are aggressive' if we're huddling together we're in gangs"

“For a white person it’s mental health and for a black person it's classed as anger management issues.”

“I’ve had a conversation where the officer has been like oh we’ve been here 5 minutes now we have to move because if anyone sees us talking for too long they’ll be like, oh why they talking to you is it because you are black.” 

“Obviously it’s a ripple effect isn’t it?  We’ve been sentenced but they’ve [our children] been sentenced with us. It is a struggle.  I’m a single parent I’ve got a son but he was 100% dependent on me.”

“It’s shocking to see how many mums are in prison for nothing.”

“I was speaking to someone and I couldn’t speak any other language to this person other than Urdu so I was speaking in Urdu and an officer came to the phone and shouted, ‘speak in English’. And at the time the person was really, really ill as well so I had to put the phone down and explain to the officer that that person can’t speak English and the officer said I need to put in an application to security.”

Double Disadvantage

The experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women in the criminal justice system