HC Deb 13 July 1999 vol 335 cc108-9W
Lorna Fitzsimons

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to introduce(a) monitoring, (b) training and (c) representation of prisoners to combat racism in prisons. [90269]

Mr. George Howarth

The Prison Service is committed to equality of opportunity and the elimination of discrimination on improper grounds. It has well-developed policies and procedures which are set out in the Prison Service Order on Race Relations, a copy of which is available in the Library. This gives mandatory and recommended requirements covering the policy and practice of good race relations within a prison establishment. All of the mandatory requirements are audited by the standards audit unit of the Prison Service and their implementation determines a prison's success or failure in the audit.

It is a mandatory requirement that in all establishments, ethnic monitoring and analysis must cover allocation to work, accommodation, education/training, adjudications, temporary release, segregation and requests/complaints. Furthermore, the Prison Service recommends ethnic monitoring is undertaken in other areas, such as random drug testing and random searches. It is also strongly recommended that ethnic monitoring takes place on a monthly basis, collated quarterly and forwarded to the appropriate area office at Prison Service headquarters. These measures are taken to ensure that any possible racial discrimination in the decision making process is quickly identified so that suitable action can be taken.

All members of Prison Service staff in a prison, including civilian and auxiliary grades, must be provided with race relations training at local level. A revised and updated local race relations training pack has recently been piloted in a number of prison establishments and the completed document should be distributed in the autumn. Every prison establishment has a race relations liaison officer and a race relations management team, meeting at least quarterly. It is a mandatory requirement that the liaison officer and all members of the race relations management team attend the appropriate central training course.

The race relations management teams develop local race relations strategies and monitor performance to ensure implementation of the national policy. Prisoner representation is recommended on this team in order to increase both staff and prisoner perceptions about ethnic minority issues. Where there are practical difficulties in having prisoner representation on the team, such as at a local prison with a high turnover of prisoners, prisons are advised to have a prisoner sub-group chaired by the race relations liaison officer. An increasing number of prisons are involving prisoners in this way and Prison Service headquarters is encouraging them to do so.