Counter-terrorism unit to tackle extremism in jails in England and Wales
Hundred-strong taskforce will examine intelligence to assess danger posed by radicalisation behind bars
A specialist team of counter-terrorism experts will be established next week as the government steps up efforts to tackle “poisonous” extremism in prisons in England and Wales.
From Monday, a 100-strong taskforce will examine intelligence from around the country to assess the danger posed by radicalisation behind bars. The unit will be the “nerve centre” for all counter-terrorism and counter-extremist work across the prison estate and probation service.
Its staff will advise jails on dealing with specific threats and help train personnel on how best to deter offenders from being lured into extremism.
Experts will also advise on the management of dangerous and high-profile extremist prisoners.
Ministers announced plans to boost the response to radicalisation under sweeping prison reform measures unveiled in November.
Last year, a government-ordered review concluded that Islamist extremism is a growing problem within jails. The assessment found evidence of offenders advocating support for Islamic State and “charismatic” prisoners acting as “self-styled emirs” to radicalise other inmates.
In response to that inquiry, the government announced plans to hold dangerous extremists in separate prison units. Figures have suggested authorities are managing more than 1,000 prisoners identified as extremist or vulnerable to extremism at any one time.
The new taskforce will target all forms of extremism including far-right ideology.
The prisons minister, Sam Gyimah, said: “Extremism is a danger to society and a threat to public safety. It is right we come together to bolster our response to the threats posed by radicalisation behind bars, and give our hard-working staff the skills and knowledge they need to keep our prisons and communities safe.
“This new team will lead this strand of important work to help combat and defeat terrorist threats posed by offenders in the prison estate and in the community.
“By countering the poisonous and repugnant activities of extremists, we will help ensure the safe running of our prisons and keep the public safe.”
The new taskforce – jointly formed between HM Prison and Probation Service and the Home Office – will work closely with police and other enforcement agencies. A strategy centre based in London will be supported by specialist regional teams across the country.
The unit builds on progress already made in addressing extremism, the Ministry of Justice said. Other measures taken include an instruction to governors to ban extremist literature and remove anyone from communal worship who is promoting anti-British beliefs or other dangerous views.