Al-Qaeda prisoners in UK jails are being hardened instead of reformed, top Whitehall sources have told the BBC.And despite this, the government reportedly wants to build Muslim-only prisons. Clearly, it is the opposite approach that needs to be taken: spread Muslim prisoners as thinly across the entire prison system as it is possible to do, so that they mix with other Muslims as little as possible (this would also have the benefit of limiting their ability to forcibly convert other prisoners, a practice that has been reported at some jails), keep those Muslims who have been convicted of terrorism offences in solitary confinement, and prevent other Muslims known to harbour extremist views from mixing with their coreligionists. I won't claim that this approach would completely eliminate the problems arising from Islamic radicalism in our prisons, but it would be a big improvement on the system as it is at the moment.
A major programme of radicalisation is underway in prisons, targeting vulnerable young men and preaching violent jihad, it has been claimed.
The BBC's Frank Gardner said sources claim Islamist convicts are undergoing the same process IRA members did at the Maze prison in Northern Ireland.
Ministers hope to tackle the problem by training prison imams, he added.
Frank Gardner, the BBC's security correspondent, said that senior Whitehall sources told him that convicted al-Qaeda inmates and their associates are using prison to build up networks and address books, making contacts with other prisoners who have supplied false documents and even weaponry.
Sources add that among 9,000 Muslim prisoners in England and Wales, a small hard core are devoted to recruiting other young men to extremism.
One government official said that they see prison as an extension of Jihad: if kept together they form a cell, but if dispersed they seek to spread their beliefs.