Empowering BAME women in the Criminal Justice System

Dr Suzella Palmer, University of Bedfordshire, recently (24th July) launched PLIAS Resettlement’s Phoenix Project report ‘Bringing reality to the Baroness Corston Recommendations for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women in the Criminal Justice System’.

Dr Palmer grew up on the Stonebridge estate in Brent and experiencing many of the issues women growing up in the Borough face – poverty, low educational attainment, witnessing and being a victim of domestic abuse, and contact with the Criminal Justice System.

The Phoenix Report highlights the need for culturally sensitive and community based interventions to provide support to BAME women involved in the Criminal Justice System that recognise the dynamics of race and ethnicity, which can help BAME women navigate their way to a better life.

The report highlights a casework and mentoring model to address the neglected and vulnerable needs of BAME women who often face disadvantage by racial discrimination and other factors such as stigma, cultural differences and isolation. The report also highlights the need for concentrated and focussed action to create the partnerships that are crucial if often shattered lives are put back together and the justice system delivers on its mission of community protection and individual rehabilitation. PLIAS Resettlement said:

“This is a time for renewed commitment and real action. Providing funding to small specialist organisations to support BAME women in the Criminal Justice System is key to making a difference to these women and their families.”

Launching the report at PLIAS’ Susan de Mont Awards ceremony, she paid accolade to her colleague, and Susan de Mont’s widow, Alex de Mont, whom she described as not just somebody who talks about it, he actually does something about it. This pragmatic approach is the reason so many people are now benefiting from the Legacy Fund, and lives are being changed.

This is summed up perfectly through the words of Brazilian academic Paulo Friere, who said:

“If I am not in the world simply to adapt to it, but rather transform it, and if it is not possible to change the world without a certain dream or vision for it, I must make use of every possibility there is not only to speak about my utopia, but also to engage in practices consistent with it.”

Dr Palmer closed with a well-received call to action for everybody who works in women’s services:

“We must empower women. Empower them to care for themselves, instead of looking after everyone else. Empower them to solve their problems themselves, to grow and to develop.”

Download the report here (warning, large file)