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Inquiry into prison racism

17 November 2000 - The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) announced a Formal Investigation into racial discrimination in the Prison Service. Three prisons have been named: HMP Brixton, HMYOI Feltham and run HMP Parc. The investigation will take place because of serious concerns amongst Commissioners that racialism is rife in some Prisons.

According to CRE Chair Gurbux Singh:

"CRE Commissioners are deeply concerned at some incidents of proven racial discrimination in the Prison Service. This is why we are taking the exceptional and serious step of launching a Formal Investigation.

"The decision follows serious concerns about the murder of Zahid Mubarek whilst in Prison Service custody (HMYOI Feltham) and the belief that the murder was racially aggravated; and circumstances surrounding the treatment of Claude Johnson, a prison officer serving at HMP Brixton.

"It is unacceptable to allow racist bullying, harassment, violence and murder to continue unchecked in our Prisons - whether between inmates, inmates and staff, or amongst the staff themselves."

The decision was taken by CRE Commissioners after a meeting on 9 November 2000, at which concerns were expressed over:

- the recent death of Zahid Mubarek at the Young Offenders Institution HMYOI Feltham;
- the recent damning Prison Service report of race relations at HMP Brixton;
- the findings of the Chief Inspector of Prisons regarding HMP Parc.

They also received a formal request from Martin Narey, Prison Service Director General for the CRE to act as an independent expert and conduct a Formal Investigation in order to pinpoint problem areas and develop an Action Plan for change.

The CRE has the power to enforce compliance with a legally-binding Non Discrimination Notice if they find evidence of unlawful racial discrimination. This would require the Prison Service to take action to stop racially discriminatory practices and behaviour.

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