THE country’s first “jail within a jail” aimed at tackling the spread of extremist views is opening in the region in the coming weeks following the introduction of new prison rules.
The Northern Echo revealed last month that Frankland Prison, in Durham, was preparing to open the new unit aimed at separating dangerous extremists from the general prison population.
The Ministry of Justice has now confirmed it will be running in the coming weeks.
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The unit at the high security prison in Brasside, which is already home to a number of the UK’s most notorious terrorists, will be the first of three centres, holding up to 28 of the “most subversive” offenders.
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.”
The MoJ says a prisoner will be considered for one of the centres if their behaviour behind bars meets the criteria and the level of risk they present can only be managed through separation.
Once in a centre, they will be reviewed by experts every three months and will only be returned to the mainstream prison population if it is considered the risk they present has reduced to a level that can be effectively managed there.
The move follows a review by former prison governor Ian Acheson into Islamist extremism in UK prisons, published last year.
One of his principle recommendations was to hold a small subset of extremists who present a “particular and enduring risk to national security through subversive behaviour, beliefs and activities” in separate units.
An amendment to prison rules was laid before Parliament on Friday which means prisoners can be placed in a separation centre if they are involved in planning terrorism or are considered to pose a risk to national security.
The centre is part of a wider strategy to tackle extremism, which includes banning extremist literature from prisons, removing people from communal worship if they are promoting dangerous views, a new training programme for prison officers to help them identify, report and combat extremism, a unit analysing threats in prison and the formation of a new directorate for security, order and counter-terrorism.