After the chair of the Parole Board expressed concern over “unconscious bias” and the absence of any black members, a campaigner has called the situation a “disgrace”.
Some 227 of the 240 board members are white, 13 are Asian or another minority background, but none are black.
Board chair Caroline Corby told the BBC: ““At the moment we have no black Parole Board members and that’s of significant concern to me.
“But in terms of addressing this issue, we’re very keen to have as many people with a BAME background apply to us as possible.
“We have learnt lessons from our last recruitment round because we actually had the same objective and we weren’t successful, so I am determined to learn lessons from last time around.”
Simon Woolley, co-founder and director of Operation Black Vote, told talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright: “It is lamentable, it’s a disgrace.
“Not least because when you look at the prisons and the youth service too, 40% of inmates in the youth service are from black communities.
- Read more: 'No evidence' racist crime has increased since Brexit, says former Equalities chair
- Read more: ‘I’ve been to six funerals this year’ due to youth violence, says stop and search adviser
“There’s a crisis going on, and at all levels in all areas, the lack of representation in some areas is just a joke.”
Government figures show that black youths make up 23% of the population of young people in custody, rather than the 40% figure cited by Mr Woolley. Young Asians make up 10%, and those from a mixed background 11%.
'It's a closed shop'
He said that he had encouraged black people to apply for jobs on the Parole Board, but they hadn’t been successful.
“Was there a possibility of you joining the parole board? It’s all very well talking about it being too white, but are there black voices clamouring to get on the parole board?” asked Wright.
“Well they’re saying there isn’t, and yet I reached out to the community and I got dozens of people to apply,” replied Mr Woolley.
“It’s one of those public appointments, and one of the few you get reasonably paid for.
“As such, it’s been a bit of a closed shop. Lots of retired magistrates, lots of retired police officers, but the people the length and breadth of the country and the spread of diversity, just cannot get a go when it comes to the parole board.
“Dramatic change is needed if we’re to have a system that works for everyone,” he added.
“The parole board is critical in ensuring people have an exit plan to a reformed way of life.
“If people feel they cannot get justice, they cannot feel that they’ll be listened to, it’s going to be a revolving door for those in prison.
“They’re going to go straight back into prison afterwards. We need to get it right for them and for society.