Andrew Neilson writes: The conviction of the cleric Anjem Choudary for inviting support for the Islamic State (Isil) brings into sharp focus a longstanding concern about prisons and radicalisation. The spectre is that jailed Islamist extremists – or indeed any other kind of political extremist – find that there is no better recruiting ground for their cause than prisons themselves.
We know, for example, that a number of extremists behind recent terror attacks in France associated with Isil had spent time in the French prison system and had been radicalised there. Now a man described as the “most dangerous man in Britain”, who counter-terrorism chiefs have spent the best part of two decades pursuing on charges of radicalisation, will most likely be sent to prison for many years. What might he achieve in the potentially fertile recruiting ground of British prisons?
As it happens, and possibly with the looming conviction of Choudary in mind, the former Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove commissioned a review into Islamist extremists in prison. That review is yet to be published, and with the appointment of Elizabeth Truss to the Ministry of Justice its future is currently rather uncertain. We do know, however, that the review found that such extremism is a growing problem within prisons (although we do not know what data the review relied upon to reach this conclusion). The review also found the National Offender Management Service, which oversees the prison system, lacked a coherent strategy to deal with the problem. Some 69 recommendations were made for change. [Continue reading…]