Three attacks a day, but prison officers deny race problem

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The Independent Online

Three attacks a day are taking place on black and Asian prisoners but few prison staff believe there are racial problems in the institutions, a new study reveals today.

The survey, by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro), found that 27 per cent of black prisoners and 49 per cent of Asians serving a one-year sentence had suffered racially motivated verbal abuse.

Fourteen per cent of these prisoners claimed to have been victims of racially motivated assaults during their year in prison. Using this figure, the survey calculated that there were about 1,000 attacks in the year, or three a day, on prisoners from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Although 20 per cent of all prisoners told researchers that race relations were "poor" or "very poor", only 6 per cent ofstaff agreed. Some staff wanted more education on such issues but others told researchers that race relations policies were a "waste of paper" and a "tool for manipulation of the system".

Nacro found that few of those from ethnic minorities who had been attacked had any confidence the Prison Service would tackle the problem. Only 7 per cent of victims of abuse or physical attacks reported the incidents to the authorities.

Helen Edwards, Nacro's chief executive, said: "Most prisoners do not report racist incidents, often because they doubt their complaints will be taken seriously or fear that they could face reprisals."

The findings come as the Commission for Racial Equality considers launching an official inquiry into "deep-seated institutional racism" in the Prison Service in response to evidence that a black auxiliary prison officer, Claude Johnson, was systematically victimised by other members of staff over 10 years.