Action to prevent extremism
Prisons have been ordered to clamp down on Muslim prayer groups over fears of hijacking by extremists.
Governors have been ordered to carry out spot checks on Muslim priests, or imams, after inspectors warned that some groups operate as gangs to force inmates to convert to radical versions of Islam.
The guidance from HM Prison Service says imams should be monitored to ensure they challenge "inappropriate behaviour" and "maintain order". It also says: "Worship should not infringe or compromise communal areas with particular reference to health and safety, and order and control considerations." It recommends "splitting" prayer meetings to help isolate problem prisoners and adds that priests must not be left "in sole charge" of large groups of prisoners. Muslim inmates in high security prisons are to be banned from leading services.
In lower-security jails, prisoners can take services in emergencies when an imam is not available, but only "subject to risk assessment and appropriate supervision".
The clampdown is to stop other gangs forming like the notorious Muslim Boys who have terrorised lags at tough Belmarsh jail in South East London for several years.