Prisoners Convert to Islam for Gang Protection

Tom Whitehead, Telegraph (London), January 13, 2009

Inmates at Long Lartin prison said some were “becoming Muslim” because it is a “bigger gang”.

Radical cleric Abu Qatada, once described as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, was held at the prison last year before being released on bail–which he went on to breach.

Similar concerns were raised in an inspection report in to Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire last year, in which prison officers warned extremist Muslim prisoners are ganging up on others in an attempt to radicalise them

Inspectors at Long Lartin, in Worcestershire, were told gang culture us widespread.

One inmate said: “Yes there is a gang culture here which is becoming an issue. A lot of people are becoming Muslim just because it’s a bigger gang.”

Another said: “There are issues with Muslim gangs wanting to overpower others.”

One added: “Muslim gangs; if you have a problem with one, you have a problem with them all,” while a fourth said: “People are converting to Islam for protection.”

The report, for chief inspector Anne Owers, also found drug debts have led to violence among prisoners.

Inmates use phones to organise sales of class A drugs such as heroin, it said.

Phil Wheatley, director general of the National Offender Management Service, said: “The Governor and senior management team are committed to ensuring that all prisoners feel safe, and the strong personal officer scheme at Long Lartin continues to be developed to offer support to prisoners.

“A new programme to improve engagement, led by the Muslim Chaplain, will develop support specifically for Muslim prisoners. ”

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