Review of the UK’s penitentiary policy regarding Islamist extremists

After having detected a whole series of deficiencies in the control and prevention of the radicalising process in British prisons, especially and surprisingly in high-security prisons, the Ministry of Justice will present a wide range of changes in penitentiary policy related to prisons considered to have inmates who are regarded as Islamist extremists.

s300_feltham-prison-walking-guard-960x640Among these deficiencies, one which stands out is the ability of the most radicalised inmates to, despite being in a high-security centre, proselytise fellow inmates by, for example, taking advantage of prayer services on Fridays with other Muslim inmates. At the same time, the same inmates seem to be able to significantly intimidate prison staff, inhibiting their functions, with attitudes which the report describes as “characteristic of organised gangs”. This has led the Ministry to study new models of isolation (Specialist Units), and also to set up special well-equipped teams and use the Body Worn Video Cameras to respond to violent or intimidating behaviour.

On the other hand, and apart from the inmates themselves, other malfunctions have been detected related to the profile of the imams who come to offer prayer services, and the “violation” of the so-called “rule 39”. This norm guarantees privacy related to correspondence between the prisoner and his/her legal representative, and violating this cannot involve introducing or taking away prohibited objects like mobile telephones. In this way, there is a wish to improve the study of the records related to imams and religious leaders, including the Counter Terrorist Check (CTC), and also to revise the procedures linked to “rule 39” to avoid this abuse.

From a more organisational viewpoint, the lack of operational effectiveness of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is noted in relation to detecting the radicalisation processes. A Security Order and Counter Terrorism Directorate is therefore being recommended, which will be completely focused on the analysis and study of Islamist extremism.

The report goes on to point out that, unlike other European countries like France, Spain and Holland, British Islamist extremist inmates enjoy much more privacy and more flexible isolation policies. The British government would therefore like to justify the way these reforms will be applied.

These initiatives have already been regarded as abusive by a range of non-governmental agencies which have expressed their worries from the viewpoint of fundamental rights. At the same time, they have questioned the efficiency of such strategies to the British government, especially those initiatives which seek to further isolate Islamist extremist inmates.

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