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  • Writer's pictureClare Jerrom

Race equality remains 'work in progress' in probation

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Race equality for people on probation and probation staff remains a work in progress, HM Inspectorate of Probation has found.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said that while there is a commitment to improve the experience of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people within this area of criminal justice, there is still some way to go to achieve proper equality of provision and opportunity.

Sammy Odoi, managing director of Wipers Youth, said: "Racial disproportionality is evident - not just in probation - but across the whole of the criminal and youth justice system. This needs to be addressed urgently to prevent young Black people from suffering racial discrimination."

The Inspectorate last inspected race equality in probation practice in 2021. The recent reinspection found:

  • There is still no national strategy that sets out expectations and plans for service delivery to minority ethnic people on probation.

  • Inspectors found little evidence that probation staff had even spoken with people on probation about their ethnicity, culture, religion, and experiences of discrimination.

  • Planning and delivery of probation services were worse for minority ethnic people on probation than for white people.

  • Dissatisfaction remains for minority ethnic probation staff, although some progress has been made.

"How can staff in any part of the youth or criminal justice system understand and appreciate the impact of racial disproportionality on young people if they do not talk to them about their experiences? Young people may be harbouring anger and resentment about the racial discrimination they have encountered but only by discussing their experiences and feeling listened to will they be able to address this," said Sammy Odoi.

However, the inspectorate found no evidence of any disproportionality in the use of enforcement or breach of probation conditions.

The chief inspector said progress had been hampered by a delay in funding for specific services for ethnic minority people on probation. Furthermore, there are few training programmes around race and ethnicity to support probation practitioners, so they aren’t currently getting the support to learn and develop the skills they need for this area of their work, the chief inspector explained.

Chief inspector Justin Russell said: "The recommendations from our 2021 report made clear that there was still a significant way to go to making the improvements needed to better support Black, Asian and minority ethnic people on probation. So, it is disappointing to see that the needs of those with diverse cultures and heritages are still not being met. For example, at the time of our inspection, specific services for ethnic minority people on probation were only being delivered in one area."

"While I don’t doubt the commitment of local probation leaders to promoting racial equality, there is still some way to go to reassure Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff that they will be treated equally. The perception remains that there is a lack of understanding and action. This needs to start with better communication between minority ethnic staff and leaders at a local level," he concluded.


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