New research shows cruel impact of Covid-19 on minority ethnic prisoners

Immediate release

Date: 01 April 2021

New research released today shows that Covid-19 has disproportionally impacted on minority ethnic prisoners.

Launched by the Zahid Mubarek Trust, Partners of Prisoners and Traveller Movement, A Record of Our Own investigates the impact Covid-19 on the lives of ethnic minority prisoners and their families. Research shows that people from these communities already suffer higher mortality rates from the coronavirus and make up more than a quarter of the prison population in England and Wales.

The report’s findings are based on an analysis of 87 questionnaires which were completed by prison leavers (62) or family members of prisoners (25) and which described conditions in 29 prisons between 23 March and 31 August 2020.

All 62 prison leavers said that spending 23 hours or more each day in their cells negatively affected their mental health.

... it puts so many bad thoughts into your head, sometimes you think oh my god, if I killed myself, I wouldn’t be in a position like this, you know. They just don’t realise the impact it has.” (A 35+ year-old female prison leaver) 

(55%) still reported having significant less contact with their loved ones during lockdown. This was also reported by family members

 “He calls only for a minute to say that he is still alive.” (A 35+ year-old female family member).

The lockdown restrictions both caused and exacerbated mental health issues, with more than half of prison leavers (34 respondents or 55%) reporting increased stress, anxiety or depression, two third of whom did not experience these feeling prior to the pandemic. Several participants said they considered suicide or self-harming or witnessed incidents in which others did so.

“If I had stayed there one extra week it would have been a body bag for me. Even like when you choke, it’s like you want to do something stupid for them to notice you.” (A 33-year-old male prison leaver).

Read the summary report here:

The reports recommends that all prisoners to be provided with longer and better quality time out of their cells every day; there should be more regular and meaningful engagement with individual prisoners to ensure their wellbeing; additional targeted support needs to be provided to groups of prisoners who are particularly affected by the lockdown provisions, especially young people, and preparation for release during lockdown restrictions should include assessments of accommodation and family and social support needs

Commenting on the report, CEO of the Traveller Movement Yvonne MacNamara said: the findings from this report are truly shocking. People from minoritised communities have been greatly impacted by Covid inside prison. This is a wakeup call for the prison service. They must put appropriate services in place, and ensure everyone in custody has time to exercise, time to learn, and time to reflect.

The report can be read in full here:




Patricia Stapleton

T: 020 7607 2002



Notes to Editor

* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.