WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
July 18 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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PAVA spray used disproportionately against Black and Muslim prisoners

PAVA spray used disproportionately against Black and Muslim prisoners

Pic: Andy Aitchison, ©PrisonImage

An analysis published by the Prison Reform Trust has found a disproportionate use of PAVA spray, similar to pepper spray, against Black, Black British, and Muslim prisoners.

Despite Black male prisoners only accounting for 13% of the prison population, Black and Black British male prisoners account for 43% of the instances of PAVA use as of December 2022. Statistics also revealed that 30% of the time PAVA is used against Muslim prisoners, despite only representing 17% of the prison population.

These figures show the disproportionate use of PAVA against Black and Muslim prisoners has become so firmly established that it has been ‘normalised.’ It was found in the Chief Inspectors thematic report (2022) that BAME inmates were subjected to stereotyping, such as being ‘perceived to be more dangerous or aggressive.’

PAVA is a synthetic form of pepper spray that causes ‘intense discomfort in the eyes’ and ‘irritation to the respiratory tract and skin.’ It was first introduced in a 2018 Pilot and was subsequently rolled out to male prisons. The use of force in prisons is justifiable if it is legal, proportionate in the circumstances, reasonable and necessary. As Prisons Minister Rory Stewart advocated for officers to have access to PAVA as the ‘ability to keep control of prisons, and the chaotic individuals within them, is vital to ensuring everyone’s safety.’

The Prisons Reform Trust (PRT) has expressed concerns regarding the continued expansion of PAVA use without an explanation of why it is routinely and disproportionately used against Black and Muslim inmates. A failure to do so would mean the HM Prisons and Probation Service is not meeting ‘its obligations to consider how policies affect people protected under the Equality Act.’

Peter Dawson the PRT director stated, ‘the fear that PAVA would be used disproportionately against people with protected characteristics is being borne out.’ Charlie Taylor suggested the prison service needs to take ‘meaningful action to address problems such as the excessive use of force on Black inmates.’

 

 

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