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prisons & prisoners

British Prison Service enables and encourages racist acts

THE Prison Service was shamed and horrifed yesterday after an official
inquiry exposed a catalogue of racist abuse and behaviour among staff
and inmates.
British Prison Service enables and encourages racist acts


17 December 2003
Prison Service tolerates racist acts and 'shocking' graffiti
óby Richard Ford, The Times (London)

THE Prison Service was shamed and horrifed yesterday after an official
inquiry exposed a catalogue of racist abuse and behaviour among staff
and inmates.

The highly critical report was published as the head of the Prison
Service disclosed that more than 50 per cent of inmates in three jails
are now from ethnic minority communities.

Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality
(CRE), which found the service guilty of unlawful racial discrimination,
also said that far-right racist groups were targeting prison staff for
recruitment.

Phil Wheatley, the Director-General of the Prison Service, agreed to a
five-year action plan to implement race equality in jails after the race
watchdog found that racist behaviour and graffiti had been tolerated in
prisons. The study also uncovered indications that ethnic minority
prisoners were discriminated against in the provision of work and in the
discipline and punishment system.

Most alarming of all was the disclosure of racist graffiti of the most
shocking kind in staff lavatories at Brixton jail in South London and of
racist fights between Welsh and English prisoners at the privately run
Parc jail in South Wales.

At Brixton the words "Preserve Wildlife, Pickle a nigger" were found in
a staff lavatory in 1998 and again in 2000. At the same jail in 1999 a
sheet of Prison Service notepaper carrying the words "You loud mouth
Paki, go home" was pushed under the door of the pharmacy where the
pharmacist was an Asian.

Mr Wheatley said of the 213-page CRE report of a £670,000 investigation
into racism at Feltham young offender institution in London, Brixton
prison and Parc prison: "I felt as I read it that there were some
shameful things in there which we as a Prison Service should look at
with horror."

The CRE made 17 findings of unlawful discrimination against the service
and highlighted 14 areas where there was discrimination against
indvidual staff and prisoners. It has decided, however, against
humiliating the Prison Service by issuing a non-discrimination notice
against it.

Mr Phillips said that he had decided against such a move because the
service had committed itself to delivering race equality through a new
action plan. The commission will, however be able to issue a notice
during the next five years if the Prison Service fails to improve
significantly.

Mr Phillips said: "What's most shocking about this report is that,
despite numerous wake-up calls, Prison Service managers persistently
failed to tackle racism in their institutions and that very often they
also failed to implement their own qualities on racial discrimination,
abuse, and harassment." The report said the findings could be applied to
the whole Prison Service and not just Brixton, Feltham and Parc.

At Brixton, the report said, the white supremacist initial "KKK (Ku Klux
Klan) for ever in Brixton" was found scrawled in staff lavatories. A
prison officer commented in front of a black colleague: "All I want to
be is an Englishman in my own country . . . Britain is no longer a white
man's home."

The report, which has taken three years to produce, found that a senior
manager at Brixton told a Prison Service inquiry in 2000 that he
regarded the term "Paki" as acceptable. The report said that a black
prisoner at Parc prison had a newspaper cutting with the words "Nigga
your next" pushed under his door. "RVS. Rhondda Valley Skins" was
scrawled alongside the words.

The report found repeated incidents of racist behaviour and abuse
suffered by prisoners and staff in the three jails under inverstigation.

In addition to black versus white racism at Parc prison, there was Welsh
versus English racist behaviour by both inmates and staff. An inmate at
Parc, which is run by Premier Prisons, had pictures of Hitler and a
newspaper cutting about racist incidents pushed under his cell door.
"Black power" posters such as those featuring Malcom X, were removed by
officers and access to Asian television channels was denied.

Racist behaviour at the jail was made against both blacks and Asians,
whether from England or Wales and against those who were white English.

Outgoing mail from Parc often carried KKK and RVS graffiti. The report
said: "It would be hard to find more obscenely racist material. However,
there was often little sign of a pro-active approach on the part of
staff toward stopping racist behaviour."

On one day alone in 2000, six letters containing racial statements from
prisoners in one block in Parc had been opened by staff. The report
said: "Officers could see that there was a network of prisoners with
racist views exchanging letters across the prisons in Wales and beyond
and were concerned enough to wish to refer some matters to the police"

CRE investigators saw some of the letters and said: "It would be hard to
find more obscenely racist material."

* Prison population: 73,983, December 16, 2003.
* Jails: 138, including eight privately run.
* Ethnic mix of population in 2002: 75.2 per cent white; 16.6 per
cent black, 3.28 per cent south Asian and 4.7 per cent Chinese and
other.
* Prison staff: 23.7 per cent of staff in jails in London are from
ethnic minority communities.
* Religious groups: Muslim prisoners are the second-biggest religious
group in jails.
* Rise in black population: Between 1999 and 2002 the total jail
population rose by 12 per cent, but the number of black prisoners
increased by 51 per cent.
* Women's prisons: Morton Hall women's prison in Lincolnshire was the
first jail in the country to hold more foreign nationals than
British citizens.