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Prisoners ‘blackmailed to convert to Islam’

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prisoners forced to join Islam

According to a study commissioned by the government, prison gangs use the phrase “convert or get hurt” to order prisoners to convert to Islam or suffer violence.

The author of the report, Colin Bloom, visited institutions and spoke with staff, officials, and chaplains. He wrote: “This reviewer heard from HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) personnel that the phrase ‘convert or get harmed’ was commonly used by some Muslim gangs, and that copies of the Quran were left on the mattresses of new detainees.

“Failure to identify as a Muslim meant that, at best, the new prisoner would be denied ‘protection’ from the dominant Muslim gang on that wing, and, at worst, they would be subjected to violence and intimidation by the same gang.”

He recommended that the government conduct an immediate investigation into the problems of coerced conversions, faith-based groups, and radicalization in prisons, including a commitment to investigate whether prison staff or volunteers had colluded to aid the growth of extremist views. According to him, such an investigation could “help identify any gaps in services that allow these issues to flourish, jeopardising the human rights and safety of prisoners as well as the efficacy of the HMPPS rehabilitation system.”

Bloom, the Independent Faith Engagement Adviser at the Department for Levelling-Up, published his findings in a 159-page report titled Does the Government ‘do God?’ on April 26. The report investigates the role of religion in society, education, and criminal justice.

Four days after the Bloom Report was released, the Ministry of Justice announced measures to combat extremism in prisons, including a prohibition on convicted terrorists conducting prayers or delivering sermons. This prohibition was already in place for some of the most dangerous individuals, but it will now be extended to the approximately 200 individuals serving sentences for terrorism offences in England and Wales.

This month, the Ministry of Justice also announced that construction had begun on a new Close Supervision Centre (CSC) at HMP Frankland – a distinct wing to house the most physically violent offenders, who may include those convicted of terrorism offences.

In 2017, HM Inspectorate of Prisons conducted a review of the CSC system and discovered that at the time, there were four of the centres at men’s high-security prisons with a total capacity of approximately 50. Following last year’s review by Jonathan Hall KC, the Government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, ministers announced a £6 million expenditure to expand the network of CSCs.

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