The warning comes after a report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons found that the proportion of black and minority ethnic (BME) children, already hugely over-represented in the system, rose to 39 per cent in 2010/11 from 33 per cent in 2009/10.
The proportion of foreign national young men increased to six per cent from four per cent in 2009/10 and the number identified as Muslim rose to 16 per cent from 13 per cent in 2009/10.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the Youth Justice Board has failed to tackle the over-representation of BME children in the criminal justice system for many years.
"As money is taken out of early intervention, prevention and children’s services, the underlying causes of crime are likely to be exacerbated, which will do nothing to quell the disproportionate and rising amount of BME children in prison," she said.
She called for action to change the key triggers. "Most BME children are from the South where there are scant prison beds, resulting in them being held in prisons hundreds of miles from home," she said. "A diminished relationship with family members and communities results in higher reoffending levels, and yet we still continue to send them to places that most families can’t afford to get to on a regular basis."
YJB chair Frances Done has expressed concern at the report, adding that work will be carried out to address the findings.