Home Office Counter-Extremism Task Force set to help tackle extremism behind bars

A new unit established to combat extremist ideology behind bars is being launched, Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah has announced. The specialist Task Force will analyse intelligence compiled by around 100 counter-terrorism experts working across the country to assess the threat posed by radicalisation in prisons.

It will also advise prison managers in England and Wales on how to deal with specific threats, as well as instruct and train prison and probation staff on how best to deter offenders from being lured into extremism.

The unit – jointly formed between Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service and the Home Office – is being brought forward as part of the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper. It will work closely with the police service and other enforcement agencies and builds on progress already made in terms of addressing extremism. This includes increased training for prison governors and staff, more resources designated to identify and remove extremist literature in prisons and holding the most dangerous extremists in specialist units in the high security estate instead of within the general prison population.

Sam Gyimah commented: “Extremism is a danger to society and a threat to public safety. It’s right that we come together to bolster our response to the threats posed by radicalisation behind bars, and give our hard-working staff the skills and knowledge they need to keep our prisons and communities safe. The new team will lead this strand of important work to help combat and defeat terrorist threats posed by offenders in the prison estate and in the community. By countering the poisonous and repugnant activities of extremists, we will help ensure the safe running of our prisons and keep the public safe.”

‘Nerve centre’ for counter-terrorism and counter-extremist work

The Task Force was launched on Monday 3 April and boosts the current team carrying out work in this area. It will be the ‘nerve centre’ for all counter-terrorism and counter-extremist work across the prison estate and probation service. Specialist staff will gather and exploit evidence gleaned from front line staff. This is work that’s essential when it comes to the safe running of prisons and absolutely fundamental to public protection.

Experts will also advise on the management of dangerous and high-profile extremist prisoners and train front line prison and probation staff such that they’re equipped to deal with extremist behaviour.

A strategy centre based in London is to be supported by specialist regional teams across the country, in turn ensuring that resources are focused on addressing the most serious risks.

The new unit will build on last year’s formation of a new directorate for Security, Order and Counter-Terrorism which is responsible for monitoring and dealing with this evolving threat.

Governors have also been instructed to ban extremist literature and remove anyone from communal worship who’s seen to be promoting anti-British beliefs or other dangerous views.

A new training package configured to identify, report on and combat extremism is being rolled out to all prison officers, with new pre-employment vetting checks for chaplains already introduced back in February.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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