The Parole Board needs you. Now!


The ground breaking David Lammy Review into Race and the Criminal Justice System laid bare the multiple levels of gross racial inequalities: From, Police Stop and Search, to arrest, to sentencing, bail and parole, the treatment to BME individuals, particularly African and Caribbean was much more negative.

Among many of the recommendations Lammy demanded was greater BME representation throughout the Criminal Justice System, including Judges, magistrates and Parole Board members.

Given the fact that African and Caribbean population in England and Wales is 2% yet the prison population is 6 times greater at 12%, is a mark of great concern that there is not one African or Caribbean in the country who is a Parole Board member. Not one.

Over 15 years ago I had a snap shot of understanding how the Parole board works, when I sat in as an observer with my colleague Winsome Cornish. The all white members each had a stack of papers they had to review about who would and wouldn’t be afforded parole.

In one case, an African was up for parole. His crime, financial fraud. After reading through the papers one of the members said: ‘Look at this, this guy, who was banged up for fraud has only got and got himself a financial business degree, no doubt, ‘she said with some disdain, ‘to perfect his fraudulent behavior ‘. She concluded, ‘but we’ll have to give him parole because he’s met the full criteria’.

One can only hope and pray that that type of thinking is a thing of past, but we have to do more than that. We, as a matter of urgency must apply to become parole board members. 20 years ago, when we started our magistrates scheme, those BME individuals dispensing justice in the local courts, not only gave really hope to BME defendants that greater racial justice would be served, but also their presence broader cultural understanding, along with not having that default mindset about who’s bad, has begun to change the DNA of the courts where they work.

We must now do the same for the Parole Board.

This present call is for the North of England only, but we’ll let you know when the call is out for the rest of the England and Wales. The roles are paid, of a high level of competencies, and competitive. But that shouldn’t put many of you off from applying.

Whilst this is a huge challenge I am very encouraged by listening to Chair Caroline Corby, and leasing with the Board’s CEO Martin Jones, neither of them have denied or shied away from the challenge, on contrary. They have told me that this is a priority, and must be turned around.

We will demand that they play their role, but we have to play our role too.

The Parole board needs you! But our communities need you in these roles even more.

Apply here:

Simon Woolley