It's all about doing the right things at the right time
As the evidence gathering phase of our campaign continues to gather pace, our team has been struck by multiple emotions as we hear more about the experiences of people in prison and their families from black, Asian, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller and backgrounds.
As a campaign team and, as the three organisations, who are partnering for this campaign, we had no doubt there was a need for this specifically focused piece of work. The responses we’re receiving from the specific communities we’re working with has echoed that.
They are telling how important it is, for them and their loved ones, to have the opportunity to speak openly within the context of their ethnic background and cultural identity.
In the feedback received from people currently in prison, they shared their worries about their family members.
We heard about the worries of a 20 year old, black male from south London, whose mother, sister and step-father are all key workers. He wrote about how he saw the news about people, who do the same jobs as his family members, dying from Covid-19.
Family members have spoken about their loved ones in prisons becoming frustrated with the lack of information regarding when and how their regimes will become less restricted. However, being aware that black men in prison are often perceived as being more aggressive, they avoid asking questions because they don’t want to be labelled as a trouble maker. So, they remain silent.
We’ve heard how a man in prison from a Traveller background and his family are finding it difficult to cope with the reduced access to phone calls. A multigenerational household all feeling that they have lost meaningful contact with their loved one, and the person in prison, has lost his entire support network, which is impacting everyone’s mental health.
In June, Public Health England (PHE) published a report - Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups. The report states:
“Change needs to be large scale and transformative. Action is needed to change the structural and societal environments such as the homes, neighbourhoods, work places - not solely focusing on individuals. There is a legal duty and moral responsibility to reduce inequalities”
We agree. In considering the legal duty and moral responsibility to change the structural and societal environments, we must also remember the structural and societal environment that comprises our Criminal Justice System where evidence has also shown more negative outcomes for people from black, Asian minority ethnic and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds.
Being locked away behind a prison wall should not exclude equal consideration of the impact of Covid-19 on BAME people in prison, and their loved ones.
Prisons do not operate in a vacuum. People in prison remain part of our communities and our evidence gathering is showing us they are being impacted; just as much those on the outside.