Equality and Diversity in the Youth Justice System
This essay explores the ways in which discrimination is evident within the Youth Justice System, and discusses the current legislation on diversity and equality, which aims to address issues of discrimination within workplaces and public bodies. Discrimination, for the purposes of this piece, can be defined as unfair treatment of a person, or group of people, on the basis of prejudice. British legislation on equality and diversity has developed in response to the fact that discriminatory attitudes, behaviour and practice exist in modern society, and aims to address this issue by making it illegal to discriminate against a person or group of people because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. A good introduction
The most recent legislation change has been the Equality Act 2010, which replaced Actsitems such as the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in order to collate and enhance the existing lawguidance (Government Equalities Office, 2010). It covers nine ‘protected characteristics’, which are age, disability, gender, gender identity, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and maternity and pregnancy. The focus of this piece will be on two of the above mentioned characteristics, race and gender, as well as looking at class discrimination (classism) which can be defined as prejudice on the basis of social class (Wikipedia, 2011 – try and avoid the use of Wikipedia. It is not the greatest academic source!). The concept of classism differs slightly from the characteristics of racism and sexism, as it is not set out in legislation, and therefore is not defined as thoroughly.Yes, good point. There is no statutory protection for people discriminated against on the grounds of class It can be argued that social class is less tangible than gender or ethnicity, and potentially more subjective, but a very general description could include attitudes and practices that knowingly or unknowingly exclude or discriminate against people from a certain social class (Wikipedia, 2011). Good point, despite the Wikipedia origins!
Defining ‘racism’ within the context of the Youth Justice System can include individual attitudes, behaviour or practices that discriminate against a person or group of people because of their race or ethnic origin (Wikipedia, 2011), but must be wide enough to include the concept of institutional racism as discussed by the Stephen Lawrence enquiry (Macpherson, 1999). In this context, institutional racism would mean that that policy and practices within an organisation such as a local authority, or a Youth Offending Team (YOT), may develop into ways of working that systematically exclude or discriminate against non-white communities or individuals. The Macpherson report suggested that racist attitudes had developed by police staff having constant contact with a “skewed cross section of society” which enhanced negative stereotypes of particular groups; this could also be true of the Youth Justice System, as we only work with those young people that are convicted of crime and therefore already labelled ‘criminals’ (White & Cunneen, 2006, p19). Excellent Institutional racism could be a factor in why Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) young people are over-represented in many parts of the Youth Justice System; many youth justice organisations believe that there is a difference in the way that BME young people are treated by organisations such as the Police, Courts, YOTs, and prison service (Nacro, 2011). The Youth Justice Board commissioned a research project that resulted in the report ‘Differences or Discrimination?’ (YJB, 2004), finding that black and mixed-parentage males were statistically more likely to be prosecuted than white young people, and that black and Asian young males were more likely than white males to be remanded into...