“We can make a difference in the long term!” Religious and racial inequality in the English Criminal Justice System

In the latter half of 2019, The Centre of Islamic Studies’ visiting fellow Ryan Williams submitted 39 recommendations to the Ministry of Justice in London and offered a training workshop to frontline probation staff based on his research on religious and racial inequality in the English Criminal Justice System. He was subsequently invited to a Ministerial Roundtable at the House of Commons in London to join frontline practitioners, voluntary sectors, and policymakers to “keep the conversation going” on inequality in the Criminal Justice System and following wider initiatives for justice reform.

Some of Williams’ recommendations are now being pursued as policy directives, including the need for probation service reforms that are more “responsive to diverse needs” through “training to improve the support they can offer to a wide-range of service users” and by structuring “senior leaders with responsibility for equalities roles”.

Williams’ training workshop offered a template for what future training might look like. Hosted at the Friends House in London for frontline staff, the training explored the obstacles to desistance from crime that people from a Muslim background face. Participants described the workshop as empowering for their practice: “It was a kick in the bum!” And as one probation officer remarked, understanding the challenges that people from diverse backgrounds face allows for public and private sectors to better support people in their care:

“[This training] has helped me to be more mindful of understanding the obstacles that people face coming out of prison because of their identity and how I can advocate for them.”

This work was generously supported through the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry and through a partnership with the University of Cambridge and was based on Williams’ ongoing project on “Re-Imagining Citizenship”. Further details on Williams’ research can be found here and in the Independent