Jailed known extremists will be kept away from other inmates in prison to prevent them from radicalising other inmates, the UK government announced on Monday.
The measure is part of a bigger strategy to tackle radicalisation that the government will announce this week.
Units will be built inside UK prisons to contain the most extreme inmates and thus prevent them from interacting with others.
They won’t be kept in solitary confinement, though, and will receive treatment for their extreme views.
The government has said that a system will be implemented to keep them from plotting together as concerns spread that gathering the most extreme inmates could lead to stronger extremist networks, according to The Telegraph.
The report, which will be fully unveiled by Justice Secretary Liz Truss later this week, was led by Ian Acheson, a former prison governor, and started under former Justice Secretary Michael Gove.
When the proposal was first laid out earlier this year, it had already gathered a lot of criticism. Professor Peter Neumann, a leading counter-terror expert, told the Guardian back in February that separate units for the extremists could create an “operational command and control structure” for ISIS in the UK that does not exist so far. He added:
“The trade-off is this: you want to separate terrorist prisoners in order to prevent them from radicalising others yet you don’t want to create a focal point for public protests — a ‘British Guantanamo’, however much of a misrepresentation that might be — or provide an opportunity for terrorist prisoners to create (or recreate) operational command structures inside prison that might not have existed outside.”
But the current system does not seem to be working, either. One of the most potent forms of recruitment for extremist groups is radicalisation in prison.
Last year, the Prison Officers Association warned that extremists were deliberately getting custodial sentences or trying to find jobs in jails to try and radicalise people “They are often clever and well educated and can brainwash young people,” Glyn Travis, assistant general secretary of the POA told the Guardian.
Staff training is also part of what is creating a dangerous situation in UK jails.
There are about 130 convicted Islamist terrorists in UK prisons and around 1,000 prisoners who “have been identified as extremist or vulnerable to extremism,” according to former Prime Minister David Cameron. But a serious lack of appropriate staff training persists.
Acheson told a select committee hearing in July that prison staff was scared of confronting Islamist ideology, and the review to be published this week also found that “cultural sensitivity” toward Muslims kept prison guards from intervening in certain situations, according to the Telegraph.
Staff members are reportedly being pressured into leave prayer rooms and Islamist prisoners are trying to prevent searches by claiming “dress is religious.”
One of the main recommendations of the report is to provide training for staff to distinguish “religious from cultural traditions.” Others include tackling the availability of “extremist literature,” better management of Friday prayers, and ensuring confidential privilege in legal correspondence is not abused.
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