19:16, July 05 223 0 theguardian.com

2017-07-05 19:16:03
Radicalised prisoners relocated to separation centre in Co Durham

Some of the most dangerous and radicalised convicted extremists in the prison system have been moved out into the first of three special “jihadi jail” separation units across England and Wales.

The first specialist centre is at HMP Frankland near Durham. Two other centres, which are expected to be at HMP Full Sutton near York and at HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire, are due to open in the coming months and the three centres together will hold up to 28 of the most subversive extremist prisoners in the system.

The government’s plans to isolate Islamist extremist prisoners from the mainstream high security jail population were first disclosed by the Guardian in February last year.

The Ministry of Justice said that more than 4,500 frontline officers have so far received specialist counter-extremism training to identify and challenge extremist views and hope that every prison officer will be trained.

The decision to isolate the most dangerous subversives to prevent them influencing others follows the Acheson report into Islamist extremism in prisons which recommended they be removed from the general prison population and given effective deradicalisation interventions.

The creation of the separate specialist units – dubbed jihadi jails – marks a break with the long-standing policy of dispersing convicted terrorist prisoners throughout the eight top security jails that make up the high security prison estate in England and Wales.

The Acheson review found that the dispersal policy was effective in managing the relatively small number of Irish Republican prisoners, who did not have even the passive support of other prisoners in English jails. But the dispersal policy had not been developed or changed in response to the emerging threat from Islamist extremism.

The maximum capacity of 28 prisoners is however far short of the latest figure of 186 prisoners in the system convicted of terrorist or extremist offences.

The Ministry of Justice said that those selected for separation in the specialist centres include those who have been 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 purposely undermining good order and security in the prison estate, may also be sent to the centres.

The prisons minister, Sam Gyimah, said: “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.

“These centres are a crucial part of our wider strategy to help tackle extremism in prisons and ensure the safety and security of both our prisons and the wider public.”