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Equalities and Rights Equalities and Rights

Reduce the disproportionate use of force against BAME people in detention or undergoing treatment

Last updated: 11:23am 24 January 2019

We will reduce the disproportionate use of force against Black, Asian and ethnic minority people in prison, young offender institutions and secure mental health units and we will legislate here too if progress is not made.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.56

Our verdict

Government statistics for the use of force on young people in custody show that:

“the rate of use of force incidents was lower for White young people in custody than for young people from all other ethnic groups combined”

The 2017-18 survey of prisoners by the Inspectorate of Prisons found a higher percentage of black and minority ethnic prisoners than white prisoners had experienced bullying, victimisation or physical restraint by staff. A 2017 report by the Runnymede Trust with the University of Greenwich identified similar disproportionality related to ethnicity in the use of force in prisons.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said:

“evidence demonstrates that force is used [in mental health units] disproportionately on patients with protected characteristics, such as…race.”

This policy is a pledge to address these injustices and to legislate if progress is not made.

With regard to prisons and young offenders institutions, we have not found significant government action relating to this policy. However, the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2017-19 gained Royal Assent on 1 November 2018 . The new law provides for greater accountability, reporting and investigation around the use of force in mental health units.

The Mental Health Units Act is evidence of movement towards fulfilling this pledge, but to move this policy to ‘done’ we would expect to see similar efforts made to counter disproportionality in the use of force in prisons and young offender institutions. Until then, this remains ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for updates.

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