Whilst the experiences and stories documented in this report are deeply troubling, we welcome this report which clearly, and honestly, outlines the extent of the discrimination and racism that young Black men in prison face, as well as the challenges and barriers that Black prison staff come up against in carrying out their roles. It is clear that there are some serious lessons to be learned and action must be taken, and we hope that HMPPS calls on the expertise of the many fantastic Black-led and specialist organisations who we know do excellent equalities work in prisons.
Targeted, tailored support is essential for young Black men in prison, who, as this report highlights, are disproportionately represented in the justice system and face significant barriers due to institutional and systemic racism.
We firmly believe that these young men have enormous potential, and that with tailored, targeted support they can be empowered to build positive, brighter futures for themselves.
This is why, starting in 2018, we developed the Black Hero’s Journey, in collaboration with young Black men in prison, Black practitioners and Black coaches. We wanted to build a programme that addressed the specific challenges young Black men face, but one which was also rooted in a strengths-based approach, that was hopeful and focused on potential. That provided a space for the young men to explore their identity and come away feeling empowered by their blackness, and proud of it.
And if you listen to Tyrone, a young man who was in the first pilot group of Black Hero’s Journey in HMP Isis, the programme has been hugely valued by those who have participated.
We are also spearheading the Being Well Being Equal campaign, as part of an alliance of six voluntary sector organisations providing rehabilitation services and supporting racial equity & wellbeing in prisons, including Zahid Mubarek Trust, Wipers, Race Equality Foundation, Centre for Mental Health and Clinks. This campaign calls on Government and policymakers to prioritise tailored wellbeing support for young men and young Black men in prison that meets their specific needs.
In January 2023 we will be publishing our Being Well Being Equal report which will outline clear recommendations for policymakers, HMPPS, and the wider sector for how we can work together and collectively, do better for young Black men in prison.
We know though, that individual programmes and campaigns are not the whole solution to a problem as pervasive, and as widespread as this report has outlined. We must join together and come up with creative solutions to overcome the obstacles that are preventing prisons from building a truly rehabilitative environment. Ministers must give this report and its recommendations the attention and focus needed to deliver change.