Conservative leadership candidate Rishi Sunak has pledged to tackle the issue of Islamist ideology in British prisons by ensuring prisoners on terror charges are kept separate from other inmates.
The former chancellor, whose resignation last month sparked the downfall of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said that he will reform how Britain deals with Islamist terror offenders if he is elected as the party’s new leader.
His pledge comes amid concerns that poorly run and overcrowded prisons are becoming hives of radicalization.
Sunak said that he would make it a criminal offense to spread Islamist ideology in prisons, and would reform the Prevent program, Britain’s counter-extremism initiative, to ensure it prioritized Islamism over other terror threats.
He also said that his government would ensure inmates held on terror charges would be kept away from other prisoners.
A report published earlier this year claimed that terrorists and extremists were enjoying enormous liberties in British prisons, with some taking control of entire wings and setting up alternative justice systems behind bars.
Jonathan Hall QC, who wrote the report, said that prison staff allowed prisoners to create “emirs” behind bars and failed to act out of fear of being called racist or anti-Muslim bigots.
The government, under Johnson’s outgoing ministry, then committed to stop extremists from influencing other inmates through the establishment of “separation centers.”
Sunak said he would commit to the project and pass a new bill of rights for prison staff.
The former chancellor also added that he would adopt a broader definition of terrorism to include those who “vilify” the UK.
“There is no more important duty for a prime minister than keeping our country and our people safe,” he said. “Whether redoubling our efforts to tackle Islamist extremism or rooting out those who are vocal in their hatred of our country, I will do whatever it takes to fulfil that duty.
“Britain is a beacon of freedom, tolerance and diversity. We must never let those who seek to undermine and destroy our way of life succeed.”
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