Think tank says British prisons breeding radicals

AP News
Posted: Nov 15, 2009 11:27 AM

A British think tank said Sunday that prison policies are failing to stop Muslim inmates being radicalized, and urged the government to set up a special center to "deprogram" extremists.

The Quilliam Foundation said extremists including imprisoned radical preachers Abu Hamza al-Masri and Abu Qatada _ once described as Osama bin Laden's ambassador in Europe _ are seeking to recruit inmates and have managed to smuggle pro-jihad propaganda out of British jails.

It said extremists radicalized in prison take five to seven years to "graduate" to violence, so jails could be breeding a new generation of terrorists.

In a report, the foundation said the prison service had taken steps toward tackling extremism "but these are not enough." It said the government should set up a de-radicalization center like those operating in Yemen and Egypt.

The report is based largely on the testimony of prisoners, smuggled out by their supporters. Author James Brandon said "Islamist extremists are running rings around a prison service which often seems clueless about the nature of the extremist threat."

The Ministry of Justice said it had not seen Quilliam's report. The ministry said it was unfortunate Quilliam had not interviewed prison staff as part of its research,

But the ministry said it was willing to consider all "practical ideas" for dealing with prison problems.

Quilliam bills itself as a "counter-extremism" think tank and was founded by former Islamist radicals.