The UK government is about to open a “terrorist only” wing in one of its jails for the first time, a decision that has been likened to setting up a British version of the US military’s notorious military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Frankland jail in Durham is earmarked to host criminals with extremist views and prevent them from influencing other prisoners, the Guardian reported Friday.
The decision was taken after police claimed that Khalid Masood, the man behind the recent terror attack that killed four and hurt dozens in London, had an “an abrupt religious conversion” while in Lewes prison, East Sussex.
As category A prison, Frankland is already home to some of the UK’s most deranged criminals and terror suspects, the report added. The government wants to create the first “prison within a prison” to separate the extremists from the rest of the prisoners.
The plan falls in line with the findings of a new government report that concluded Britain’s “most subversive extremist prisoners” should be jailed separately to tackle the “growing problem” of impacting other prisoners.
Experts, however, believe the project’s outcome would be nothing but a Gitmo-like prison that would only give extremists a political status.
“We saw it in Northern Ireland where some loyalist prisoners and some republican prisoners were segregated and what happened was that it gave them a political status. It didn’t work and in fact made the situation worse,” he said.
“It made the job of prison officers at that time extremely difficult and our fear is that the same would happen. It would give the inmates in those units an elevated status and raises the risk of bad behavior from prisoners to gain a place in that unit,” he added.
In 2015, a cell search in Frankland returned a copy al-Qaeda magazine Inspire. The high number of extremists was why the prison was chosen.
The Durham City MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods, welcomed the move, saying it showed that the government recognized the problem.
“If this unit can help in the wider de-radicalization and Prevent strategy then I think it’s a good thing and it’s a recognition that there’s an issue that needs to be tackled,” she said.
The administration of former US President George W. Bush set up Gitmo after the September 11, 2001 attacks as a place to hold terror suspects. Senate confirmed later on that the detainees were subjected to some of the most painful tortures in the facility.