The UK government has started sending extremist prisoners to its latest “separation” center as experts warn that longer sentences for lower-level offenders could increase their chances of deeper radicalization. Special centers for the most dangerous terror offenders have been set up after a 75 percent increase in prisoners convicted of terrorism-related offenses in the last three years.
Pressure is also expected to grow on penal systems across the Middle East and Europe as they deal with foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria after the collapse of Daesh. In the UK there is growing concern that prisons are acting as incubators for extremism, with violent young offenders being brainwashed by hardcore extremist recruiters. Sentencing Council for England and Wales guidelines have raised the minimum charge for the “preparation of terrorism” from three to six years, compared to 21 months to five years previously. The move comes despite concerns that longer jail terms could expose prisoners to greater risk of radicalization.
“We have to be careful who we are imprisoning,” said Ian Acheson, a former prison governor whose review of Islamic extremism in UK prisons last year led to the creation of separate units in prison for extremists.—Agencies