Youth incarceration

In November 2015, the Ministry of Justice released statistics on race and the criminal justice system in England and Wales. Relative to the population, the rates of prosecution and sentencing for Black ethnic minorities were three times higher than for White people. For the Mixed ethnic minority they were twice as high (MoJ, 2015). While it is possible that the overrepresentation of Black and Mixed ethnic minority teenagers reflects differential reporting between victims, it is indisputable that ethnic minorities are overrepresented in the youth justice system. May et al.’s (2010) report on the differential treatment in the youth justice suggests ethnic minority overrepresentation is not necessarily due to higher offending rates:

• Two out of three arrests for acquisitive crimes (excessively interested in acquiring money or material things) were a result of reactive policing.

• Different policing areas adopted markedly different styles of policing, and these styles affected the profile of young people entering the youth justice system.

• Mixed ethnicity offenders and suspects were more likely than White offenders and suspects to be prosecuted than to be reprimanded or warned.

• Black and Mixed ethnicity defendants were also more likely to be remanded in custody than White defendants.

• At court, Black defendants had a higher chance of being acquitted than White defendants.

• At the sentencing stage, Mixed ethnicity teenagers were more likely than others to be given a community sentence rather than a (less serious) first-tier penalty, such as referral orders and fines.’

© 2016 Equality and Human Rights Commission Published August 2016

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