International day for the elimination of racial discrimination
21 March 2023 is the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination, an opportunity to reflect on individual, and collective, progress in challenging discrimination in our organisations and across the criminal justice system. We are proud of our accomplishments; however, we recognise there is still much to be done.
Having been the network co-ordinator for 6 months, I have gained an understanding of the needs for current members and look at the future direction of the network. I would like to use this space to reflect on the progress Clinks has made around race and justice and highlight the opportunities ahead.
An overview of Clinks’ work in race and justice
Prior to the creation of the Race and Justice Network and role of designated network coordinator, Clinks’ work in race and justice was held at a strategic level. The work aimed to highlight structural inequalities to policy makers and government, focussing on representation and advocacy for organisations led by, or supporting, racially minoritised people.
Clinks supported the Lammy Review to engage voluntary organisations working in criminal justice. We have worked to ensure that this engagement continues while the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and His Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS) implement the Review’s recommendations. This has included supporting the MoJ to hold meetings between the voluntary sector and Ministers, and workshops on improving outcomes for racially minoritised children in the criminal justice system.
In 2014 Clinks published the Young Review into improving outcomes for young black and Muslim men in the criminal justice system. Clinks led the support for this report, in partnership with BTEG, providing coordination and secretariat for its advisory group and drafting the report itself. Since then, we have continued as members of the EQUAL advisory board (previously the Young Review Independent Advisory Board) to drive forward its recommendations. Clinks is also a panel member for the External Advice and Scrutiny Panel for HMPPS Race Action Programme, which you can read more about below.
Clinks also provides the chair and secretariat for the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) set up by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), in partnership with Clinks, to build a strong and effective partnership between the voluntary sector and the MoJ. As part of this group we have ensured that there are members with expertise and experience in providing specific support to racially minoritised people in contact with the criminal justice system. The group is made up of senior experts from the voluntary sector who connect with civil servants each quarter to provide guidance and feedback on MoJ policy developments.
Our policy team always considers whether race inequality is an issue which needs to be highlighted in all policy developments, particularly when they are not specifically race equality related. We have also developed our policy messaging and organisational language on race and justice, which you can read more about in this blog.
Why the Race and Justice network must exist
The Race and Justice network is still fairly new to Clinks and exists not only to highlight the evident systemic racism that is present within the sector, but to strengthen the voices of voluntary organisations that support those who are racially minoritised. Clinks relies upon the network to provide insight and experience to influence key decision makers.
The current status of the network
After speaking with many network members, what has been highlighted is the need for collaborative working, not only with key stakeholders but also within the network. Members would like to see this network used as a ‘safe space’ to identify challenges and look at ways of overcoming these. This will be done through regular forums, which going forward will spotlight members who wish to raise issues.
Through my conversations with members, it has become evident that people are finding it difficult to understand the relationship between the network and HMPPS. I hope this blog helps to clarify the purpose of the network and my role. I have developed a good working relationship with the HMPPS Race Action Programme (RAP) team. The RAP team seeks to create a fair, transparent model that values diversity and is inclusive for all. The programme relies upon the wealth of knowledge and lived experience in the network to ensure their work is of sound quality and able to capture all that it will affect.
Conversations have also highlighted that there is a clear need for members to feel they are equipped and able to build the capacity of their organisations; with many unsure of how to: set up a trustee board; obtain funding/writing bids; or they are new to running an organisation. Knowing that this is something that you would like Clinks to prioritise as areas of support for the network, I am exploring ways this can be done for the year ahead.
Clinks recognising the need to do more
As an organisation, Clinks also recognises that we haven’t always got it right and we should be doing more. Covid-19 brought a lot of challenges to the sector at quite an alarming pace which admittedly resulted in us slowing down work around race. As the network co-ordinator, I will be working closely with the policy team to ensure our focus on race remains a priority.
Looking at the year ahead
2023 looks to be a promising year for addressing racial inequalities. We ended last year with a letter from Amy Rees, Director General CEO, HMPPS and Phil Copple, Director General of Operations, HMPPS, in response to the recent His Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) Prisons Thematic Report that looked at the experiences of adult black male prisoners and prison staff.
With the many changes across government in recent months, it appears that conversations around race and direct discrimination have been put back on the agenda. We will continue to engage with the HMPPS Race Action Programme, and other officials, to create and provide opportunities for members of the network to feed into the projects of the programme. These are as follows:
- Inclusive Policies Project
- Support and Safe Spaces Project
- Learning and Development Project
If you would like to learn more about the Race and Justice Network or become a network member please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org