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Beyond a numbers game: Unveiling urgent solutions for diversity and inclusion in the criminal justice workforce

A new report from the Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA) highlights the pressing need for greater racial diversity and inclusion within the criminal justice workforce and offers pragmatic solutions to address long-standing, systemic issues.

Launched on 5 June, Beyond a numbers game is the result of a three-year examination of racial diversity and inclusion across the criminal justice system including the 2020 launch event featuring David Lammy MP and Rt Hon Robert Buckland KC MP.

Beyond a numbers game comes in the wake of significant reports and reviews including the Macpherson Report, the Lammy Review, and the Casey Review, highlighting the presence of racism and its harmful impact on racially minoritised staff and those directly impacted by the system.

The CJA acknowledges incremental progress has been made regarding recruitment of racially minoritised people in the criminal justice workforce but highlights the need for sector employers to go further and faster to promote retention and progression, as well as to address toxic workplace cultures.

The report includes examples of good practice and checklists containing pragmatic solutions for criminal justice sector employers to consider creating a more inclusive, safe and positive work environment for all. It also provides recommendations for government to take a more joined-up and holistic approach to this issue across the CJS.

‘The launch of this report marks a crucial milestone in addressing the pressing need for greater diversity and inclusion within the criminal justice workforce. The CJA’s comprehensive analysis and recommendations provide a roadmap for positive change and offer hope for a more equitable and just system.’ Mark Blake, Policy Manager at the CJA commented.

‘We call upon stakeholders within the CJS to share the report and its recommendations, engaging in open conversations about implementing pragmatic steps. By working together, the criminal justice community can create environments that reflect the diverse populations they serve.’

Key findings:


  • Criminal justice agencies’ poor reputation among underrepresented communities hinders diverse candidate recruitment.
  • Targeted outreach, engagement, and addressing systemic issues are crucial to attract a wider range of candidates.
  • Despite lots of activity to improve recruitment, it is inconsistent and positive action is underused.

Retention and Inclusion:

  • Racial discrimination and toxic workplace cultures are pervasive issues impacting staff safety, satisfaction and retention.
  • Leadership commitment is often lacking and race equality initiatives are often inadequately resourced.
  • Racially minoritised staff often take on the work of improving diversity and inclusion in addition to their day jobs and feel undervalued.


  • Racially minoritised staff are often looked over for career development opportunities and promotions due to structural barriers, biased assessment processes, and lack of diversity in senior management positions.

High-level policy recommendations:

Tackling racial disparities:

  • Implement recommendations from race reports and improve adherence to the Public Sector Equality Duty.
  • Publish progress updates, establish a database of policies and Equality Impact Assessments, and analyse cumulative impacts on racial groups.

Multi-agency approach:

  • Form a working group of government officials, criminal justice agency representatives, and race equality organizations.
  • Develop consistent data collection, establish accountability mechanisms, and facilitate sharing of good practice examples.

Voluntary sector engagement:

  • The criminal justice voluntary sector should enhance recording and sharing of workforce data to measure progress effectively.

Resource allocation:

  • Allocate adequate resources, including investment in organizations promoting racial diversity and inclusion, as reparations for past harms.

Key speakers at the launch event included Abimbola Johnson, prominent barrister and Chair of the Independent Scrutiny and Oversight Board for the Police Race Action Plan. Abimbola noted the devolved nature of decision-making and the lack of transparency, which hinder community scrutiny and make comparison between units and forces challenging.

“Workforce reform requires ownership by all, not just the enthusiastic volunteers who frequently come from recially minoritised backgrounds.”

Avtar Singh, HM Inspector of Probation, shared insights from the forthcoming two-year follow-up report on race in the criminal justice system. While acknowledging some progress, Avtar stressed that more work remains to be done.

“What is important for probation as a whole, is to reflect the population in the local communities from which staff and service users are drawn.”

Sarah Coccia, Executive Director of South Public Sector Prisons – HMPPS, underscored the need for collaboration across the entire criminal justice system. Sarah expressed the urgency to think differently and take long-term ambitions into account to avoid repeating the same challenges in the future

“None of us works in isolation, system is fundamentally joined up – we need to not just look at our own bit but look across the system.”

Download the report here