Inquiry held on race attacks in jails

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Commission for Racial Equality is to launch a fresh investigation into racism in the Prison Service after reports of a high number of racist attacks involving both prisoners and staff.

The Commission for Racial Equality is to launch a fresh investigation into racism in the Prison Service after reports of a high number of racist attacks involving both prisoners and staff.

In the latest incident, the director of the Prison Visitors Board was referred to as a "nignog" by one of his staff.

The remark about Delbert Sandiford was made by a prison visitor, who has since resigned his position, at a conference at Keele University last weekend.

At the same conference, Paul Boateng, the prisons minister, made a speech focusing on race as one of the major issues that needed to be addressed in prisons.

A survey published earlier this year showed that more than a quarter of black and almost half of Asian inmates said they had been victims of verbal abuse.

Twelve per cent of both groups reported being attacked by another prisoner or staff member in the survey carried out by Nacro for the Prison Service.

In a television interview, the head of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, also admitted that his organisation was "institutionally racist" and that there were "pockets of blatant and malicious racism" among his officers.

These views matched the findings of the chief inspector of prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham, who accused some prison officers of possessing an attitude to ethnic minority prisoners and their families which was "totally and utterly wrong".

Last night, Chris Myant, from the CRE, said the commission and the Prison Service were in discussions as to how an inquiry would be conducted. He also expressed his personal astonishment at the incident at the Board of Visitors conference.

"Delbert is a mild-mannered gentlemanly person - a comment like that is extraordinary in this day and age. This is a sign of how far the culture has got to change," he added.

"Paul Boateng has already expressed concern that the appropriate action is not being taken over incidents like these. It's quite clear that people at the top want it to change."

Steve Robinson Grindley, former chairman of the board of visitors at Haslar Prison near Portsmouth, said the issue highlighted the need for action.

"This man should not have been allowed to resign because he could still get another position within the service - he should have been disciplined," he added.

"A large number of prison visitors are white and middle-class. People often have very little exposure to multi-culturalism. This man obviously thought he was among friends when he made the remark which makes it worrying."

Comments