UK: Gov't failing in efforts to de-radicalise jailed Islamic extremists

UK: Gov't failing in efforts to de-radicalise jailed Islamic extremists

Government efforts to de-radicalise jailed Islamic extremists are failing, former inmates have told the BBC.

The prison service employs Muslim chaplains to "challenge and undermine extremist ideology".

But former prisoners claim the imams are viewed as "puppets" and allege some have even been assaulted.

The Ministry of Justice said it was working "with a number of third-sector partner organisations" to rehabilitate prisoners.

Around 200 extremists have been jailed since the 2005 London bombings and some are now due for release from prison and are returning to their communities.

Londoner Qasim (not his real name), who was 17 when he was jailed for three and a half years after admitting attending a place used for terrorist training, said the prison imams failed to challenge his core beliefs.

"They didn't try to de-radicalise me. There wasn't much of that at all to be honest. There was a prison imam but he only came on a Friday to lead prayers," he told BBC Radio 4.

Other former prisoners claimed that the 200-strong prison imam service is not equipped to address the core ideology which led to their crimes.

Shah Jalal Hussain, who also lives in London and spent 18 months in prison after being convicted of raising funds to support terrorism, claimed that prison imams were viewed with open hostility and as "puppets of the regime".

"A number of times he [the imam] was even attacked physically. He tried to press charges, but dropped them in the end. Prison didn't change my views at all, in fact it made me stronger in my beliefs," he said.

The government said Muslim extremists presented a complex profile and there were "no off-the-shelf interventions" which could be used to deal with them.

Instead, "offenders are managed based on individual risk assessments and sentence plans".

Harry Fletcher of the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) said once prisoners were back in the community, traditional risk assessment tools and strategies were proving ineffective.

Mr Fletcher said there was still no guidance to help his members deal with the growing numbers of former terrorist prisoners now being released into hostels and the community.


Using a variety of approaches these projects aim to challenge the offenders' ideology and offer a more mainstream understanding of Islam.

Qasim, who claimed he was successfully de-radicalised with the help of the Stockwell Green Muslim Centre, which runs a tailored 18-month programme called Preventative and Lasting Measures, said having the chance to discuss his beliefs through the programme was vital.

"I had one-to-one sessions and mentoring. It's been positive to address various issues and not feel you are in trouble. My mind has now changed, I've realised I was doing more harm than good."

A Conservative spokesperson said the Islamist threat posed unique challenges and "the UK must investigate international best practice".


Source: BBC

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