Black prisoners and white guards should cook and eat together to break down cultural barriers and suspicion, the prisons’ official watchdog has said.
Some senior prison officials have told HM Inspectorate of Prisons that the initiative could begin immediately after concerns about deep divisions between black prisoners and prison staff who remain predominantly white.
A lack of trust and communication was fundamental to the divisions identified by the report – a factor that contributed to the disproportionate use of force against black prisoners, a report published on Tuesday found.
The report said senior staff, guards and black prisoners were supportive of the idea of cooking and eating together.
“Specific food preparation can build confidence, pride and enjoyment in cultural identity. It is a point of connection with other people and has deep emotional significance,” the report states.
Some prison officials told inspectors they could launch the initiative immediately.
“Some senior executives thought they could start exploring this suggestion immediately because they had enough kitchen space and equipment in their establishments,” the report said.
Others said it would be a challenge due to a lack of space and resources.
“Staff highlighted the need for proper investment in equipment and health and safety assessment,” the report said.
Immigration removal centers already have “cultural kitchens,” where groups of detainees can get raw food ingredients, cook meals together, and then invite others to share meals with them, the official said. ‘inspection.
“An expanded version of this type of facility could provide a useful model for prisons, and we have already seen free-standing kitchens working well on inspection, providing inmates with opportunities to socialize, plan meals and practice budgeting skills,” the report said.
Other potential solutions to existing divisions include “reverse mentoring,” whereby inmates provide insight into their lives through private discussions with staff, joint inmate-staff forums, and training and education. joint education.
Black men in prison told inspectors that staff saw them as a group rather than individuals and did not understand their distinct cultures.
White staff often mistakenly associated black prisoners with gangs, and black prisoners felt this had profound implications for their day-to-day treatment.
While making up about 13% of the prison population in 2020-21, black prisoners represented a disproportionate use of force by officers, the report said. They were more than twice as likely as other ethnic groups to be victims of batons and incapacitating sprays.
Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “Our report offers a number of solutions developed in discussion with black prisoners and prison staff that focus on creating opportunities for respectful communication and developing mutual understanding. We believe they have the potential to be transformative.
The report, titled “Thematic Review: The Experiences of Black Adult Inmates and Black Prison Staff,” was produced after interviewing black inmates, black staff, white staff and senior managers at seven prisons.
It comes amid reports that restaurant chains such as Wagamama are sending their chefs to prisons to teach prisoners how to create signature dishes.
Amy Rees, Chief Executive and Chief Executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service, said: “This report shows that we need to go further to eliminate discrimination and intolerance from our prisons.
“We have made real progress over the past few years in recruiting a more diverse workforce, improving training and providing new forums in which concerns can be raised safely and honestly. But I want to assure staff and prisoners that we are listening and will soon define further measures to address the issues raised in this report.