Skip to main content
November 2023

Equality incapacitated: the disproportionate impact of PAVA spray on Black, Muslim and disabled prisoners

The use of force in prison is only justifiable if it is legal, proportionate in the circumstances, reasonable, and necessary.

This briefing brings together evidence that, we think, casts doubt on the legality of the use of PAVA spray in prisons.

The first section describes the expansion of PAVA availability in adult male prisons. The second discusses the evidence of disproportionate use of PAVA by race, religion and disability. Third, we show how disproportionate use of PAVA has become the norm. Fourth, we explain the legal context, and argue that the current provision of PAVA spray to prison establishments does not comply with HMPPS’ legal obligations. Fifth, we re-examine arguments that PAVA spray contributes to prison safety. Finally, building on evidence, the briefing makes recommendations designed to reduce the disproportionate use of PAVA.