Extremist-only prison units to be launched in UK

Safya Khan-Ruf - 21 04 17

The Government is planning to isolate the UK’s most dangerous extremists in special units away from other prison inmates, in a bid to tackle prison radicalisation.

The first of three units will open in June at Frankland Prison in Durham and will house extremists who pose a risk of radicalising mainstream prison populations.

“Any form of extremism must be defeated wherever it is found, and it is right that we separate those who pose the greatest risk in order to limit their influence over other prisoners,” said Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah.

The amendment to prison rules brought to Parliament today allows prisoners to be isolated if they are involved in planning terrorism or pose a risk to national security. Those that encourage or inspire others to commit crimes could also be separated.

The units will be the first of its kind in the UK but Steve Gillan, from the Prison Officers Association, fears it will make their job harder. He told The Guardian that this could lead to the creation of a “British Guantánamo Bay” and give the isolated inmates elevated status while increasing the bad behaviour from prisoners seeking to gain a place in the unit.

“We saw it in Northern Ireland where some loyalist prisoners and some republican prisoners were segregated and what happened was that it gave them a political status. It didn’t work and in fact made the situation worse,” he said.

The flowers, and messages, with the photo of PC Keith Palmer, killed in Westminster attack.
Courtesy of Gerry Popplestone/Flickr

The changes come after fears that increasing numbers of criminals are leaving prison radicalised. Khalid Masood, the Westminster attacker, is said to have had an “abrupt religious conversion” while in prison.

Ministers said last year that they wanted to isolate dangerous inmates after a review of Islamist extremism in prisons. The units will hold up to 28 of the worst offenders who will be evaluated by experts every three months on the risk they pose to other prisoners.


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