Convicted extremists who promote terror and violence will be isolated from the rest of the prison population under new plans to be announced by the Government.
The recommendation is in response to a government-ordered review into radicalisation in jails, which will be unveiled later by Justice Secretary Liz Truss.
It comes just days after it was revealed that Anjem Choudary, one of Britain’s most prominent Islamist clerics, was convicted over drumming up support for Islamic State.
He faces years behind bars, prompting fears he could influence other inmates and recruit them to the terror group.
Speaking to Sky News ahead of the announcement, Ms Truss was quizzed about concerns placing such prisoners together in separate units could lead to them becoming “no-go” areas in prisons.
She said: “We’re extremely alive to those risks and we’ve looked at the experience in Northern Ireland, we’ve looked at experiences across Europe.
“What we can’t have is what we have at the moment, which is those highly subversive prisoners being able to influence others and be able to radicalise vulnerable offenders across our mainstream jails.”
The government review revealed that “charismatic” prisoners were found to have exerted a “radicalising influence” on the wider Muslim population in jail, and were acting as “self-styled emirs” behind bars.
Other examples cited were:
Aggressive encouragement of conversions to Islam;
Unsupervised collective worship, sometimes at Friday Prayers – including pressure on supervising staff to leave the prayer room;
Attempts to engineer segregation by landing, by wing, or even by prison and prevent staff searches by claiming dress is religious;
Books and educational materials promoting extremist literature in chaplaincy libraries;
Intimidation of prison imams and “exploitation of staff fear of being labelled racist”.
Plans to create specialist units within prisons to remove the most “dangerous extremists” from the general population was one of the review’s key recommendations.
Measures also include improving extremism prevention training for all officers and strengthened vetting of prison chaplains.
Governors will also be instructed to ban extremist literature and remove anyone from Friday prayers who is “promoting anti-British beliefs or other dangerous views”.
The director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson, said the proposals only deal with part of the problem.
“The thing the government hasn’t dealt with is how you protect the large number of vulnerable prisoners in the main prison estate,” he said.
He added: “I think what prison officers would say is what they really want is time and space to get to know the prisoners, to build the trust that allows them be the main influence on how prisoners behave and not other prisoners.
“If somebody has to be sent to one of those units it has to be made clear why and how long they will be there for, and that really intensive work is done to change the way they think and the way they behave.
“Once that has been done, they must go back into the main prison so we can observe whether it has made a difference.”
Shadow prisons minister Jo Stevens claimed the issue of radicalisation of vulnerable Muslim inmates and growing extremism in prisons “has been ignored by the Tories for over five years”.
Citing record levels of violence and a growing prison population, she added: “It’s little wonder overstretched prisons have been unable to address the problem.”
Figures show there were 12,633 Muslims in prison in England and Wales as of the end of June. The number stood at 8,243 a decade earlier.
As at the end of March, of the 147 people in prison for terrorism-related offences, 137 of them considered themselves to be Muslim.
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