Youth Justice Council – The NEN – North Edinburgh News

A blog from the Youth Justice Board’s (YJB) Business Intelligence and Insights Directorate highlighting racial inequities in the juvenile justice system and the work underway to address them.

Today, people across the UK remember Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered at the age of 18 in an unprovoked racist attack. Every year on April 22, Stephen Lawrence Day is an opportunity for people to come together to honor Stephen’s life and legacy and stand up against discrimination.

At the YJB, we have been highlighting the issues of overrepresentation and disproportionality of Black and mixed-ethnicity children within the juvenile justice system for more than a decade. And so it seems timely to highlight the information on inequality that we have recorded in our annual statistics.

What do our annual youth justice statistics show?

Although promising reductions have occurred at various stages of the juvenile justice system, black and mixed-ethnicity children remained overrepresented.

Compared to the share of black children in the population aged 10 to 17, black children are disproportionately represented at most stages of the juvenile justice system.

Disproportionality of Black children in the juvenile justice system

There have been some encouraging reductions in several areas in recent years, including stops and searches, arrests, juvenile warnings, new entrants, convictions and children in custody.

What does the broader evidence tell us?

Addressing ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system is one of the YJB’s strategic priorities and requires close collaboration to achieve this. We now know more about the existence and extent of ethnic differences and their potential causes, but less about possible solutions.

An analysis commissioned by YJB shows that:

Intersectionality also emerges when analyzing data from other government departments – for example, custodial sentences are found to be twice as common among care-experienced children of black or mixed ethnicity compared to care-experienced children who were white.

Research by YJB shows that the main causes of ethnic inequality in child recidivism are the following:

  1. Marginalization of individuals and communities.
  2. Individual, institutional and systematic bias.
  3. Weaknesses in prevention and intervention.
  4. Negative experiences with the broader juvenile justice system.

This is consistent with findings from wider research and data showing that children of black and mixed ethnicity:

In line with this, HM Inspectorate of Rebation (2021) found that 60% of boys of black or mixed ethnicity who were subject to a court order were often permanently excluded from school.

When the structure and safety of the school system are removed (including access to warmth, food, and a community of peers), it can increase the likelihood that a child will become involved in crime.

The HM Inspectorate of Rebation thematic review also reports that boys of black and mixed ethnicity in the justice system are more likely than others to have an education, health and care plan and special educational needs and disabilities are not taken into account.

This creates additional vulnerability for these children, for whom they may currently receive insufficient support, both before and after accessing the juvenile justice system.

Promising interventions to address ethnic inequities include racially sensitive interventions and training for staff to become more culturally competent, with a contextual understanding of the child/families’ personal experiences, as well as continued investment/interest in improving and understanding structural inequalities.

What do we and others do?

To reduce inequalities, the YJB has published research into ethnic differences in reoffending rates, and recently funded the evaluation of the Brent and Newham COVID-19 over-represented Children’s Boy Scout.

Ongoing and upcoming work to further explore and address inequality for children from minority ethnic backgrounds includes:

  • research into the use of Pre-Sentence Reports, conducted by Ipsos Mori and Manchester Metropolitan University, will be published in spring 2024
  • Revolving Doors has been commissioned to produce a Disparity Good Practice report, which will include case studies of good practice in tackling inequalities in youth justice, to be published in 2024.
  • the bids for the Addressing Disproportionality Pathfinder have now been closed and the commercial process is underway
  • the upcoming release of the Case Level Ethnic Disparity Tool, which will be made available to youth justice services and enable them to investigate disproportionality within their service

The sector delivers a range of research activities around ethnic inequality, many of which we will pursue through our strategic relationships, including:

  • The Youth Endowment Fund has commissioned the University of Greenwich to review evidence of what works in tackling racial inequality
  • The Nuffield Foundation has funded a project on racial inequality in distraction, which the University of Bedfordshire will undertake

Stephen Lawrence Day serves as a poignant reminder of the need to confront racial injustice and systemic discrimination.

But there is no one solution to a systemic problem. Of course we want fewer children of black and mixed ethnicity to enter the justice system, but to achieve this we must recognize the drivers of inequality and work together to achieve complete systemic change.