Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Muslim prison gangs on the rise as inmates seek safety in numbers

Prison staff in top security jails in Britain are confronting a growing gang culture with groups of Muslim inmates seeking to assert their authority on the wings. A prisons watchdog report recently published provides fresh evidence of the extent of gang activity among inmates jailed for the most serious crimes and of the growing proportion of Muslim inmates held in high-security conditions. 25% of the 430 population of Long Lartin top security jail in Worcestershire are now Muslim, according to an inspection report by Dame Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons. Prisoners told Dame Anne during her inspection that offenders at the jail are converting to Islam because they want the protection of belonging to a big Muslim group. One inmate quoted in the report said:"Yes, there is a gang culture here which is becoming an issue. A lot of people are becoming Muslim just because it a bigger group." Another inmate warned that all violence in the jail was gang related and that Long Lartin was in danger of turning into an American-style prison. He said: "If you are not in a gang, you’re in trouble. People are converting to Islam for protection." The comments reflect similar concerns at other top security jails such as Belmarsh in southeast London and Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire. The number of Muslim prisoners in jails doubled in the eleven years to 2007 to reach 8,864 - 11% of the total prison population. Muslim prisoners make up one third of the population of Whitemoor, 15% of Full Sutton top security prison in Yorkshire and 20% of Belmarsh jail.

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