Radicalisation in Prisons

Justice – in the House of Commons on 14th July 2020.

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Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Conservative, Newbury

What steps his Department is taking to tackle radicalisation in prisons.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

We take the threat posed by terrorist offenders very seriously. We utilise a range of rehabilitative tools, which include psychological, theological and mental health interventions. In January, the Government announced a number of additional measures for dealing with terrorist offenders, including increasing the number of counter-terrorist specialist staff in our prisons.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Conservative, Newbury

In the last eight months, we have seen terrorist attacks in Streatham, Fishmongers’ Hall and, most recently, Forbury Gardens, where the assailant either had just been released from prison, or was out on licence. What improvements does my hon. and learned Friend think could be made to de-radicalisation programmes to prevent these lone wolf, post-release attacks?

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

My hon. Friend makes an important point about the tragic incidents that we have seen over recent months. She rightly highlights de-radicalisation programmes. Twenty-two trained imams are doing de-radicalisation programmes in our prisons, but those are not the only measures that we are introducing. We have increased our training for prison and probation officers to deal with terrorism and we are bringing in new national standards for managing terrorists on licence. We want more counter-terrorism specialist staff and we want more places in approved premises as a transition from prison to the community. In addition to that, counter-terrorism police funding is increased this year by £19 million.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

There was much discussion around the inadequacy of de-radicalisation work in prison during the Committee stage of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill, both in evidence and in debate. We heard that these programmes are not entirely fit for purpose and not always readily available. Clearly, they need a good overhaul—perhaps even more so given the new, longer minimum sentences. Laura Farris certainly seems to agree with that. Sadly, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Chris Philp. rejected our amendment in Committee to undertake a review to examine the effectiveness and availability of de-radicalisation programmes in prison. Will today’s Minister accept that they do need to be improved and launch the review that is needed?

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

We have increased the number of imams operating the de-radicalisation programmes. We are looked at, and looked towards, by others internationally in relation to the programmes that we operate. Of course, we continually evaluate the programmes that we operate within our prisons.