UKIP wants ‘Muslim-only prisons’ but the Tories got there first

Cell door open at HMP Shepton Mallet
Glen Black

UKIP called for Muslim-only prisons among ideas it put forward at its conference on 21 September. But the Tories have already beaten UKIP to the punch.

What UKIP wants

UKIP’s 2018 conference launched the party’s Interim Manifesto. UKIP leader Gerard Batten hoped it would make UKIP a “populist party“. In a section on “Islamic Extremism”, the document said:

UKIP would introduce the separation of prisoners or prisons exclusively for Islamic prisoners who promote extremism or try to convert non-Islamic prisoners.

This was widely described in the news as ‘Muslim-only prisons’. And many were quick to criticise the idea.

Islam21C said the move was a “desperate bid for relevance”. The Guardian described it as Batten dragging “Ukip further right”. Even Maajid Nawaz, of the dubious Quilliam Foundation and one-time associate of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), came out against it.

But what many critics failed to mention is that UKIP’s idea is already in action. And the Tories introduced it in 2017.

‘Unofficial’ Muslim-only prisons

On 6 July 2017, the Ministry of Justice announced it had opened a Separation Centre (SC) at HMP Frankland in County Durham. A second SC opened on 11 April 2018 at HMP Full Sutton, East Yorkshire. And a third will be at HMP Woodhill. There will be space for up to 28 prisoners across all three SCs.

The Ministry of Justice said SCs would help “stem the flow of radicalisation behind bars”. The concept developed out of a 2016 review into “Islamist extremism in prisons”. The paper recommended Muslim inmates that could radicalise other prisoners are:

removed from the general prison population and held in specialist units

Sam Gyimah, then prisons minister, said SCs would tackle “any form of extremism”. But some speculated at the time that Muslim inmates would be targeted. Referring to close supervision centres (CSCs), which are used for solitary confinement, anarchist prisoner Kevan Thakrar said on 21 July 2017:

The SC system is blatantly an unofficial CSC system designed to specifically discriminate against Muslim prisoners who are disliked but have not actually done anything to justify a CSC placement.

The only confirmed SC inmate is Anjem Choudary, who spent time in HMP Frankland’s SC. The Express named other inmates it said had been put in SCs, all of whom had links to Islamist terrorism.

On 3 June, the Times claimed just seven prisoners had been put into the special units. This low number has caused the SC at HMP Woodhill to remain empty. And the Times quoted an anonymous source as saying the Prison Service isn’t using SCs because:

they’re afraid of the legal challenge and of being accused of breaching… human rights.

But the Ministry of Justice responded that it had “delivered” on its plans.

Who is far-right?

Many people reacted to UKIP’s call for Muslim-only prisons with rightful contempt. It was seen as part of the party’s “lurch to the right“. And this drift is a serious concern that The Canary has reported on before.

Yet the Tories didn’t receive the same criticism when proposing and implementing the idea. Although more cleverly worded, the Tory policy has resulted in the same thing. Muslim-only prisons are absolutely a far-right idea. And in this instance, UKIP was trailing in the wake of the Tories.

Get Involved!

Learn about why a world without prisons is not just possible but necessary.

Read about Thakrar’s experiences inside CSCs.

Check out more reporting from The Canary about prisons.

Featured image via Rodw/Wikimedia Commons

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Glen Black