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Number of BME boys being imprisoned in the UK is at its highest ever

The HMIP report also showed that they were less likely to be offered support by staff than white boys in the same facilities

young offenders

As many as 51 per cent of male young offenders in jail come from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, a prison watchdog has said – the highest-ever in the UK.

The number of BME boys depended on the facility, ranging from 21 per cent at West Yorkshire’s Keppel Unit to almost three quarters (71 per cent) at Feltham in South-West London.

The HM Inspectorate of Prisons report studied the perception of children aged 12-18 in young offenders’ institutes or secure training centres between 2017-18.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the report gives an insight into the practice of youth courts.

She added: “For the first time, more than half of boys in prison identify as being from a black or minority ethnic background. It is disturbing that disproportionality is growing.”

Nearly 42 per cent of children in secure training centres identified as being from a BME background.

Nearly 700 children responded to the survey. Two in five children in prisons  – and a third of those in secure training centres – reported having felt unsafe at some point. The report stated that more than half of children surveyed across both types of facilities said they had been physically restrained.

Nearly half of children held in secure training centres reported having been in local authority care prior to custody, while 25 per cent identified themselves as having a disability.

It was also found that BME boys in young offenders’ institutes were significantly less likely than white boys to have been sentenced (69 per cent compared with 83 per cent), or to have been handed a sentence of less than 12 months (19 per cent compared with 36 per cent).

They also reported staff offering them significantly less help or support with money worries, loss of property or feeling scared and worried than they did to white boys in the same facilities.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: “I trust that the details of this report will prove useful to those whose responsibility it is to provide safe, respectful and purposeful custody for children.

“As we all know, the perceptions of children in custody, will, for them, be the reality of what is happening.

“That is why we should not allow the recent improvement in inspection findings to give rise to complacency.”

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