In Britain, black people make up 12% of the prison population. That’s quite a feat considering that we are only 3% of the population outside of those walls. In youth offending institutions that number rises to 41% of the prison population, but thanks to work by Labour MP David Lammy and other campaigners, this open secret hit the headlines earlier this year.
Black men and women are overrepresented in the prison system – we know this. But this means that black communities are disproportionately affected by imprisonment and its aftermath. It should come as no surprise to anyone that more often than not it is black women who shoulder the burdens that come with the far-reaching ripples that an individual custodial sentence creates, but many women deal with this secretly. It took someone close to me beginning a prison sentence for me to realise just how many women I personally knew who were quietly picking up the pieces after a close relative began serving time at “Her Majesty's Pleasure”. And as comforting as it was to know that I was not alone in what I was going through, the fact that it affected so many of us was unsettling.