The British parliament announced plans to reform its prison system Wednesday, after the country’s maximum facilities have turned into “jihadi training camps.”
The situation in Britain’s prisons have quickly spun out of control as increasing numbers of released criminals return to crime. The maximum security Belmarsh prison in London is now known to be a central spot for recruitment for terrorist organizations. Belmarsh housed 51 inmates convicted of terror-related crimes in 2006. The number has grown to at least 80 a decade later.
A Muslim inmate identified as “Jamal” described his time in Belmarsh with a column published Wednesday in The Evening Standard.
In the 200-people block Jamal stayed in, about half were Muslim and 10 percent were serving sentences for terror-related offenses. The terrorists were the popular inmates and the ones with the most influence over the block. Anyone who refused to embrace jihad were punished.
“All around I witnessed people being radicalized,”Jamal said. “Instantly you could see the change … they would call each other ‘Akhi’ [brother] and they became hyper-aggressive toward anybody not into radical Islam.”
Jamal witnessed 25 people pummeling a Christian inmate after false accusations of “disrespecting Islam.” Both Jamal’s cell mates were black converts to Islam who opposed his moderate faith.
When Jamal confronted guards about the problem, a chief prison officer allegedly responded, “we don’t have the funding or staff to do anything about it.”
The government-funded imams in the prisons were also sympathizing with the jihadists.
“It’s not clear-cut. Do whatever you think is right,” one imam said in response to how jihad should be tackled.
The British parliament is planning prison reforms, which include measures to stop radicalization and impose lifetime sentences on terror-related activities. The reforms were the center piece of the annual Queen’s speech Wednesday, when the government’s program for the next parliamentary session was rolled out.
“For too long in our country the young offender institutions and prisons have not been working,” Prime Minister David Cameron told members of parliament. “They give the public the security of knowing that offenders are locked in but they’re not doing enough to turn around the lives of people who will one day be let out.”
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