Scales of justice
Efforts to change convicted terrorists' beliefs failing badly Reuters

Efforts to get convicted terrorists to drop their violent ideology are failing badly, it has emerged.

Three quarters of all prisoners convicted of terror offences reject rehabilitation and not a single senior terror convict has engaged with the de-radicalisation programmes, Sky News said.

It raises the prospect of inmates being released from jail still holding the same violent beliefs, said critics.

Only 40 people have engaged with the so-called Contest programme, the government's counter-extremism scheme, which is designed to turn away inmates from violent ideology.

Convicted terrorists include the plotters who were thwarted from a repeat terror attack in London two weeks after the deadly 7/7 London bombings. Muktar Ibrahim and Hussain Osman were among four men jailed for 40 years each for the plot.

Experts said that terror convicts differ from other categories of prisoner because their extremist beliefs are deeply engrained. Quilliam Foundation – which was founded by a two former Islamist extremists - said that defeating extremism required special focus.

Ghaffar Hussain, Quilliam's head of research, praised the steps taken but said that more had to be done.

He told IBTimes UK: "Often the more hardcore prisoners refuse to engage with mentors and are socialising with people who have similar views which are mutually reinforcing. Their worldview is not that uncommon in prison. People may disagree with the actions, but not the broad worldview.

"The challenge to these people should be 'if you are so confident in your worldview and are willing to take radical actions then why not sit down and defend and discuss it?

"If a person wants to cooperate with a good mentor then change can happen.

"Some of these prisoners have a very good education and apart from doing what landed them in jail, have no criminal record. So they are in a completely different category from thieves or drug dealers.

"They are very different people, so it's about pairing them with the right mentors; if a prisoner is religiously motivated they should go with an expert on theology, or a geopolitical specialist if they're motivated by politics."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Challenging the extremist ideologies of individual prisoners can be a long and complex process.

"There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

"Such interventions are a process - not an event.

"That is why we have a range of robust interventions to address these dangerous beliefs and to manage offenders effectively while they are in prison."