700 inmates in UK prisons on extremism list

Around 700 inmates lodged in the UK’s jails pose a risk due to their extremist views, the UK government said today (11) as it announced the opening of a second high-security unit dubbed “jihadi jails” in northern England.

The Ministry of Justice also noted a 75 per cent increase in prisoners convicted of terrorism-related offences in Britain in the last three years.

The new high-security separation centre opens at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire as part of measures to curtail the influence of the most “disruptive” and “subversive” inmates, with a third such facility set to be in operation by the end of this year.

The first separation centre opened at HMP Frankland near Durham in north-east England in July 2017.

“As a result of the government’s unprecedented action to protect the public from extremists, we have seen a 75 per cent rise in terrorism-related prisoners over the last three years. That means we need to do more than ever before to confront and counter the threat, including the spread of all forms of poisonous ideology within prisons, and we are meeting that challenge,” said justice secretary David Gauke.

“With thousands of prison staff now trained to deal with extremism, an enhanced intelligence capability and separation centres for the most subversive prisoners, we are well equipped to deal with this threat,” he added.

The minister said a new prison’s intelligence unit has also been established and thousands of prison staff have received specialist training to spot signs of radicalisation, with every new prison officer enrolled on the programme.

The intelligence unit is aimed at boosting the ability of prison officers to target those who present the greatest extremist threat as well as tackle the threat from foreign fighters returning “hardened and dangerous” from war zones like Syria and Iraq.

As part of a series of initiatives, 100 counter-terrorism specialists have been appointed and over 13,000 frontline staff have been trained to ensure they can identify, report and tackle extremist behaviour in all its forms.

Its new prison separation centre will allow more offenders to be separated from the mainstream prisoner population, providing a crucial provision in tackling extremism, the ministry said.

“Offenders are placed in the centre if they are involved in planning terrorism or are considered to pose a risk to national security. Those seeking to influence others to commit terrorist crimes, or whose extremist views are undermining good order and security in prison, can also be placed there,” it added.

A joint prison service and home office extremism unit has also been operational since April last year to tackle the threat of all forms of extremism in prisons, including Islamist as well as far-right.