Alternatives to custody important if we are to curb the spread of Islamism in prisons


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The Henry Jackson Society today responded to a report from the Justice Select Committee on the Sentencing Council’s guidance on terrorism offences, arguing that while prison will always be necessary for the worst extremists, exploring alternatives for low-level offenders is important for countering the spread of extremism.

In their report, the Select Committee argue that counter-radicalisation work in prisons is often “absent or inadequate” and that, as a result, the courts should consider whether a non-custodial sentence may often be better for rehabilitation purposes.

Dr Julia Rushchenko, Associate Research Fellow in the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society and author of a forthcoming report on prison management of terrorism, said:

“There will always be cases where, for the worst offenders and extremists, there is no option but jail. Where that happens, government must look carefully at whether those who may radicalise other inmates should be kept separate from the rest of the prison population.

“Prison and probation services should be strong partners in deradicalisation. Unfortunately, instead of promoting disengagement from violence, they often facilitate the spread of radical views by giving inmates a platform to forge alliances, share experiences and recruit new followers.

“Current sentencing practices coupled with an increasing trend for shorter sentences are exploited by extremists as a way to generate distrust in the criminal justice system. This does present a challenge for Ministers and the courts.

“For those less serious offenders, we do need to look at alternative options to custody – if only to help curb the spread of Islamism in prisons.”


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