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‘School-to-prison pipeline’: A National scandal for black & mixed heritage boys

The government has come under pressure to finally take action over the “school to prison pipeline” after a report by HM Inspectorate of Probation found black and mixed heritage boys received poor quality of support from youth offending services and key agencies in England.

The report shows 60% of those who had received a court sentence had been excluded from school. Youth justice staff were said to find it challenging to find suitable educational alternatives for these boys. Inspectors examined individual cases and found that most of the boys faced multiple disadvantages.

CEO of the Race Equality Foundation, Jabeer Butt has called on the government to bring in measures to end the “school to prison pipeline”.

He said: “The evidence on the lack of early intervention to address multiple and complex needs of black and mixed heritage boys now in the youth justice system is deeply dispiriting. But perhaps more shocking is that 10 years after the Youth Justice Board committed itself to identify and spread local effective practice, this report notes a lack of impetus to improve and deliver better outcomes for black and mixed heritage boys.

“The Inspectorate’s conclusion that it is yet to see progress in ‘casework being delivered’ should be a clarion call for urgent and sustained action in the provision of youth offender services. At the same time, the government needs to invest in and improve early intervention, as well as work to end the school-to-prison pipeline, which sees disproportionate exclusions from schools leading to over-representation in the youth justice system.”

A sample of cases from nine youth offending services across England were reviewed by the inspectorate as well as inspection data gathered over a 12-month period. Inspectors spoke to senior leaders and youth justice workers, and partnered with an agency to speak directly to some of the boys.

Justin Russell, the chief inspector of probation, told reporters: “There is a disproportionate number of black and mixed heritage boys in the youth justice system. Addressing this disparity has been a longstanding goal, but we found a lack of clarity and curiosity about why this disparity exists and what needs to be done to change it.

“Good intentions must translate to positive practice and real improvements across the country. More must be done to understand and meet these children’s needs earlier on, to prevent yet more black and mixed heritage boys from entering the criminal justice system further down the line.”

Steph Roberts-Bibby, chief operating officer at the Youth Justice Board (YJB), said: “The report makes a number of wide-ranging recommendations, two of which are for the YJB. We are due to publish revised guidance early next year that addresses one recommendation and will continue our work with cross governmental department, partners and stakeholders in support of the remaining recommendations.”

Self-Harm and Pain Inducing restraint in UK youth custody at record high

This follows another report published this month that shows self-harm and use of restraint has increased in the youth justice system, this report also shows a record-high number of children in youth custody are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The government’s annual youth justice statistics, highlights that more than half of young people in custody are black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background (BAME), a situation that the shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, described as a “national scandal”.

The Guardian reported that in total there were nearly 7,800 use-of-force incidents across three secure training centres and five young offender institutions – an average of 82.5 incidents per 100 children and young people a month.

The number of severe injuries suffered by children in custody as a result of self-harm has also risen, and those requiring hospital admission had almost doubled: 627 injuries required medical treatment after self-harm in 2019-20, with 69 of these injuries requiring hospital treatment (up from 39 in 2018-19).

The figures show a significant rise in the overall use of pain-inducing restraint techniques since 2018-19. The number of restrictive physical interventions (RPIs) increased by 19% in the last year, to about 7,500 incidents. The number of self-harm incidents in child prisons increased by 35%, to about 2,500. For both measures, these were the highest number of incidents in the last five years.

The proportion of black children cautioned or sentenced has been increasing over the last 10 years and is now double what it was in 2010.

(12% compared with 6%). In the same period, the average custodial sentence length given to children has increased by more than seven months, from 11.3 to 18.6 months.

The equalities minister, Liz Truss, recently suggested that claims of structural racism in the UK were “evidence-free”.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said they are working across government to tackle the deep-rooted causes of the over-representation of BAME children in the criminal justice system – including practical work on diversion and improving support for frontline justice services.

David Lammy commented:

“It is a national scandal that more than half of young people locked up are from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background, instead of denying the reality of structural racism, it is time for the government to finally act like black lives matter.”

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