Plans to combat the influence of Islamic extremists in British prisons have been revealed, including the creation of segregated units for radicalised inmates and increased vetting for prison imams. The plans follow a report on extremism in British prisons, which will be unveiled by Justice Secretary Liz Truss on Monday (22 August 2016).
It comes days after it was revealed that extremist preacher Anjem Choudary was jailed for encouraging support for Islamic State (Isis). Concerns have been expressed that he could attempt to radicalise other inmates while serving his sentence.
Previously, radicalised inmates were moved between prisons to prevent them building ties with and influencing other inmates.
The example of the Maze prison in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, where separatist and loyalist prisoners were segregated and gained substantial control of their wings is often cited by critics of plans to separate extremists from the prison population.
The review found that "charismatic" prisoners were found to have exerted a "radicalising influence" on the wider Muslim prison population, and were acting as "self-styled emirs" behind bars.
Among its other findings were that:
• Extremists were aggressively attempting to encourage other inmates to convert to Islam
• Friday prayers were left unsupervised and staff pressurised to leave
• Attempts to engineer segregation of Muslim inmates were made
• Literature in chaplaincy libraries promoted extremism
• The intimidation of prison imams and attempts to exploit staff fears of being labelled racist
Plans to create specialised units in which the most "dangerous" extremists would be segregated from the general prison population were among the report's key recommendations. Other measures include strengthening vetting of Muslim prison chaplains, and banning extremist literature.
Speaking ahead of the report being unveiled, Truss said: "Islamist extremism is a danger to society and a threat to public safety - it must be defeated wherever it is found.
"I am committed to confronting and countering the spread of this poisonous ideology behind bars. Preventing the most dangerous extremists from radicalising other prisoners is essential to the safe running of our prisons and fundamental to public protection."
Shadow Prions Minister Jo Stevens said: "The urgent issue of radicalisation of vulnerable Muslim inmates and growing extremism in our prisons has been ignored by the Tories for over five years.
"During that period, the prison population has grown, thousands of prison officers have been sacked, violence is at record levels and our prisons are at breaking point. It's little wonder overstretched prisons have been unable to address the problem."