UK: Muslim ex-inmates to get mentors on release
A charity is offering one-to-one support for Muslim criminals on their release from jail in a bid to cut reoffending.
The scheme is being run by Mosaic, which runs programmes to support young Muslims living in deprived areas.
A study of Muslim prisoners found many were rejected and stigmatised by their communities on leaving custody.
About 12% of inmates in England and Wales are Muslim, compared with 3% of the general population overall.
Twenty-six-year-old Mohammed (not his real name), is serving an indeterminate sentence in Latchmere House prison in south-west London after being convicted of conspiracy to rob.
"You know many families don't actually deal with what their son or daughter has done.
He said although all prisoners needed help on release, Muslim offenders trying to re-enter society faced unique problems.
"Parents say things like 'Oh my son… he's been to Pakistan for the last six months', 'he's been studying in Morocco for 18 months', or 'he's just gone off to get married', rather than admitting he has been inside.
"The Muslim community don't want to have anything to do with them because they've come out of prison and they (the community) feel they're making Islam look very bad.
"On the other hand they've got the rest of society - the non-Muslim - they have the same views, that you're a criminal and on top of that you're a Muslim so in their eyes you're twice as dangerous.
In June 2008, 9,795 Muslims (12% of the prison population) were in jail in England and Wales, compared with 4,188 in March 1998.
Mosaic aims to reduce the "disproportionate" number of Muslim inmates. Its mentors will work to get prisoners aged between 16 and 30 back into education or employment, which it says is the key to preventing reoffending.
A study by the Muslim Youth Helpline in 2006 found 35% of the Muslim inmates it surveyed had reoffended.
Mosaic's national operations director, Jonathan Freeman said: "We work very closely with the Muslim Youth Helpline which for many years has had a programme supporting prisoners.
"They undertook a research project (with Muslim inmates) and it was very clear, they said, that those who had reoffended felt one of the biggest reasons was the lack of support they were getting on their release from the community.
"They didn't feel that they could go to their mosque or go to the more established community leaders because there was a particular stigma that was attached to them."