Are you OK with cookies?

We use small files called ‘cookies’ on Some are essential to make the site work, some help us to understand how we can improve your experience, and some are set by third parties. You can choose to turn off the non-essential cookies. Which cookies are you happy for us to use?

Skip to content

The experiences of adult black male prisoners and black prison staff

Open document

This thematic review explores the experiences of prisoners who identify as black men and what can be done to create opportunities for respectful communication and mutual understanding between black prisoners and staff.

Watch the launch event:

Our report proposes a number of solutions developed in discussion with both black prisoners and prison staff that focus on creating opportunities for respectful communication and the development of mutual understanding. These should not be seen as a replacement for existing processes to identify and tackle unacceptable behaviour. But we believe they have the potential to be transformative if the prison service is prepared to take them seriously.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor

What did black prisoners tell us?

You see black people in general… we’re talking to each other, we’re bantering, we’re all loud… these people over here, they’re not used to that… they’re saying “oh my god, this is a ‘gang’, what is going on”… they’re thinking these guys are bullies. But they don’t understand that’s just us being us, that’s just how we grew up, that’s how our aunties are, that’s how our mums are, that’s how our dads are.

Black prisoner group

They say you guys are a little gang innit? But we are surrounded by you guys, staff are mainly white, guys around us are mainly white and you don’t target them. There is 30 of them all standing together, they are friends on the outside that is a real gang. But you don’t target them. The only thing we’ve got in common is our colour.

Black prisoner

… first and foremost we’re not asking you to be friends with us but have some knowledge, have some insight into our culture.

Black prisoner

If somebody takes time out of their day to ask how your day is going, and ask how you are, and if you’re ok, with the situation I find myself in. I feel like that goes a long way.

Black prisoner

What did black staff say?

… I walked in, sat at the back, a CM said “what are you doing here?” I said, “It’s a Let’s Talk meeting”, he said “Yeah, yeah, but you’re not supposed to be here”. “Why can’t I be here?” “Because we want the staff to be able to talk freely”. I said, “They can talk freely”. He said “No, no, no, you can’t be here”. I said I’d just sit at the back of the chapel, I’ll not be included… he said “No you can’t be there, just get out…”

A black staff member describes being excluded from a discussion group by white staff

…my first thought [i.e. about how to make progress] is I want my employer to create a safe space for me to work in.

Black senior manager

What did white staff report?

The whole thing frustrates and baffles me… there’s so much segregation between different groups and a lot of it I don’t get… you’re learning how to challenge somebody as an individual, not as a group.

Staff group

I will be honest… if somebody says to me [you’re racist] I’ll blow my stack… there’s no way I’m racist whatsoever… really irritating.

Staff group

They take over certain areas, don’t they, they’ve taken over, like, the smoking shelters and stuff like that… going in and playing dominoes… it just feels like they, you know, they don’t welcome anyone else in… you never see any white or Asian men playing with them.

Staff group

How great would it be if… on a houseblock you’ve got a group of prisoners… different cultures… staff and the prisoners sit down together and eat.  It just breaks down barriers, doesn’t it?… I think it’s a really good concept.

Senior manager

HMPPS response