The Daily Telegraph
Less secure jails risk breeding terror, say MPs
INMATES in low-security prisons may be susceptible to radicalisation because anti-extremism measures are not in place, MPs have warned in the wake of the Westminster terrorist attack.
Killer Adrian Ajao is understood to have converted to Islam and been radicalised while serving part of a two-year sentence in HMP Wayland, a category C prison in Norfolk.
While anti-radicalisation programmes are in place in high-security jails such as Belmarsh in London, known as “Britain’s Guantanamo Bay”, lower category prisons are effectively overlooked.
Now a parliamentary inquiry is to examine whether inmates in low-security prisons should be monitored more closely.
Bob Neill, chairman of the House of Commons justice select committee, which oversees the prisons system, said the Government must consider measures such as expanding segregation to low security prisons.
He said: “This is about having units in prison where you can put the really hardest core [extremists] into segregation.
“One of the real problems is when these really hard-line guys influence more vulnerable prisoners – does this [Ajao] fall into that category?
“We need to know precisely how this happened. Are there other things we need beyond the segregation of the known trouble makers to prevent other Islamist material potentially getting in?
“Is there a risk of radicalisation at a lower level? We need to find that out.
“We need to have a look at what more monitoring we can have on internet access, material that is coming in via contraband and so forth.”
Mr Neill said it was also essential to monitor prisoners on release “in case the idea is put in their mind and then they drift off to radical mosques”.
He said his committee would now look into the matter. It has the power to call witnesses including prison governors and ministers responsible for jails.
Detectives investigating last Wednesday’s attack on Westminster Bridge and on Parliament, in which Ajao killed four people, are still trying to establish exactly when and how he became radicalised.
He was sentenced to two years in jail in 2000 after slashing a pub landlord across the face following a row in the village of Northiam in East Sussex.
Before going into prison he had been a heavy drinker and regular drug taker, but when he came out in 2002 he was a devout Muslim, wearing traditional dress and growing a beard. He also changed his name to Khalid Masood.
In 2004 Ajao married a fellow Muslim and later travelled to Saudi Arabia where he worked teaching English to foreign students.
HMP Wayland, in the village of Griston, houses around 1,000 inmates and is not known to have a particular problem with radicalisation.
However, Harry Fletcher, director of Voice4Victims, said it was common for vulnerable inmates to be targeted.
“Those with drink and drug problems will be approached by those who offer them protection and they will perhaps encourage them to foster a grievance,” he said.