Black and Muslim prisoners suffer worse treatment, study finds

Black and Muslim offenders are more likely to be badly treated in prison, leading to poorer outcomes and mental health concerns, research has found.

The Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, and the University of Greenwich investigated the treatment of male black and minority ethnic (BAME) prisoners, surveying over 340 inmates across four prisons.

Those surveyed, of which 100 gave face-to-face interviews, felt discriminated against based on the basis of their race and religion, and were subject to cultural and racial stereotypes by prison officers.

The researchers found that being black or Muslim doubles a prisoner’s chances (40%) of having worse prison experiences – which includes having restraints used against them and being put into segregation in past six months – compared with white prisoners (21%).

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They were also more likely to be on the lowest rung of the prison rewards and punishment scheme, more likely to be put into segregation and more likely to have restraint used against them. Almost a third of Muslim prisoners (29%) did not have prison jobs or attend education courses, compared with 17% of Christian prisoners. This issue particularly affects rehabilitation, Runnymede said.

Zubaida Haque, a research associate of the Runnymede Trust, said that offenders lose their right to liberty but should not lose their human rights, “especially in relation to personal safety”.

She said “far-reaching staff cuts” were having an impact on the treatment of prisoners. “If the government quickly reverses staff cuts this will have a positive impact on mental health, suicides and disproportionality in prisons,” she said. “But cultural awareness and unconscious bias training for prison officers is also critical to address the negative stereotypes and everyday racism that BAME prisoners experience.”
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