The seminar began with a session focusing on the experiences of everyday life in immigration detention. Hindpal Singh Bhui, an inspection Team Leader in (HMIP), explained the powers and aims of the HMIP in the UK as a key independent institution monitoring daily aspects of life in detention. Most of HMIP’s recommendations are accepted by the custodial companies, although fewer of them are achieved. For Hindpal, the power of HMIP rests in its independence and impartiality, as well as in its powers to communicate with the media and publish its findings. HMIP inspectors deploy a wide range of skills to monitor everyday life, and benefit from a mixed-methods approach to data collection.
As Hindpal Singh Bhui, the editor of this valuable collection of essays, points out in the introduction, criminal justice systems are highly symbolic sites which demonstrate visibly and authoritatively the relationship between justice and race within a given social group. This highly stimulating series of essays traces recent developments in the state of that relationship in contemporary England and Wales. It is timely in that our understanding of race and racism has developed rapidly in recent years. A new awareness has developed of the diversity and complexity within what are already problematic racial categories and the emergence of faith in a highly racialised field has altered the way race is understood by criminal justice agencies. A fresh analysis of race in criminal justice is, therefore, not only welcome but necessary and whilst it focuses on a specific jurisdiction it nevertheless simultaneously raises important issues for theory, policy and practice across Europe.