Exploring the nature of muslim groups and related gang activity in 3 high security prisons

A report summarising a qualitative study to explore the nature of Muslim groups and related gang activity in 3 high security prisons.

Summary:

Understanding the nature and drivers of prison groups and gangs and the impact they can both have on the prison environment is important for the management of establishments, safety of staff and prisoners and also for offender rehabilitation.

The few UK studies exploring prison gangs suggest there is some gang presence but perhaps not to the same extent as that found in the US, where prison gangs are highly structured and organised with considerable control over the prison.

Research in an English high security prison showed that Muslim gangs, formed for criminal purposes, can present both a management challenge due to criminal behaviour and also sometimes through the risk of radicalisation. However, prisoners who form into friendship groups for support, companionship and through shared interests should not be confused with gangs formed for criminal purposes. It is therefore important to understand the differences between prison group and gangs and distinguish between them.

This study aims to further our knowledge in this area by defining and describing prisoner groups, exploring the presence and nature of prison gangs and the impact they have on prison life within three High Security prisons in England. A qualitative approach was used with interviews being conducted with 83 randomly selected adult male prisoners located on the main wings and 73 staff from a range of disciplines across the three establishments. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis that was both inductive and deductive. The findings should be viewed with a degree of cautions as the views presented may not be representative of all prisoners or staff.

The study found the main prisoner group to be a large, diverse group of prisoners who connected through a shared Muslim faith. Respondents were questioned on the presence of other prisoner groups but none were considered to be as dominant or significant when compared to the Muslim group. Membership offered many supportive benefits including friendship, support and religious familiarity.

A small number of prisoners within the group were perceived by those interviewed to be operating as a gang under the guise of religion and were reported to cause a significant management issue at each establishment. The gang had clearly defined membership roles including leaders, recruiters, enforcers, followers and foot-soldiers. Violence, bullying and intimidation were prevalent with the gang, using religion as an excuse to victimise others. The gang was perceived to be responsible for the circulation of the majority of the contraband goods in the establishments.

Gang Leaders. Leaders were reported to have their own hierarchy with a leader for the entire establishment, each wing and landing. They tended to be born into the faith, were often Arabic speaking and perceived to have a greater knowledge of Islam, presenting themselves as scholars to others. However, this was questioned by some prisoners with knowledge of the faith, as one Muslim prisoner stated: ‘People who’re leading them aren’t intelligent. They read the Koran and make it fit with their life and their own beliefs. They don’t fit their life around the religion.’

Motivations for joining the gang were varied but centred on criminality, safety, fear, protection and power. Comparisons were made with historic prison gangs and respondents acknowledged that gang problems, especially in the high security prisons, were something staff had always had to manage and would continue to require careful supervision.

The study highlighted the complex nature of groups and gangs in high security prisons in England. This report discusses how the findings can be used to inform management approaches, such as ensuring systems are in place to identify and support prisoners who are particularly vulnerable, improve staff training and education, and the use of culturally matched mentors and external experts.

Contents
1. Summary 3
2. Context 5
3. Approach 7
3.1 Participants 7
3.2 Materials 7
3.3 Procedure 8
3.4 Analysis 8
4. Results 10
4.1 Presence, nature and purpose of Muslim groups and gangs 10
4.2 Gang structure and roles 11
4.3 Motivations for joining a gang 13
4.4 Behaviour of gang 14
4.5 Impact of gangs on prisoners and staff 15
4.6 Leaving the gang 16
5. Conclusions 17 References

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Muslim prisoners ‘injured’ after refusing to join Muslim prison gang

fullsutton

An increasing number of Muslim inmates complain they are being intimidated to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a prison gang, and some have received injuries following a refusal to do so.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he was aware of an ‘increasing number of complaints’ from Muslim prisoners in the High Security prison estate who claim to have been intimidated to join the prison-based ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Mr Leech said: “Radicalisation of Muslims in the High Security Estate is nothing new and the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood is equally well-known, what I find disturbing is that I have seen an increasing number of Muslim inmates and their families complaining that their loved ones are being intimidated into joining this group and some have received injuries, perhaps unconnected with their refusal, after persistently declining to join.

“One firm of personal injury solicitors I am in touch with confirm they act for a Muslim inmate seriously injured in Full Sutton prison after he continually refused to join the Full Sutton Muslim Brotherhood – unusually and perhaps of significance is the fact that prison staff at HMP Full Sutton have given evidence supporting his case.

“Prison gangs like the Muslim Brotherhood can feed on fear and perpetrate a belief that there is safety in numbers – we should not forget that the Prison Inspection report published in April 2013 on Full Sutton said:

We had two main areas of concern. First, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim prisoners about many aspects of their treatment and conditions were much more negative than for white and non-Muslim prisoners. For example, significantly fewer told us staff treated them with respect and significantly more said they felt unsafe.

“Treating all prisoners with respect and equality is the challenge for the management of Full Sutton, a Maximum Security prison which in so many other respects has shown itself well able to rise to difficult challenges and overcome them – and on this important one it must not be allowed to fail.”

Hostage incident linked to Rigby murder – Muslim inmates intimidated to join prison gang

full sutton

Prison chiefs have linked an attack on a prison officer to the Lee Rigby murder and warned prison staff of an increased risk of threats, according to reports – while an increasing number of Muslim inmates complain they are being intimidated to join the Muslim Brotherhood, a prison gang, and some have received injuries following a refusal to do so.

A male prison officer was left with a broken cheekbone after being held hostage by three male prisoners, two aged 25 and one aged 26, at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire on Sunday.

An email circulated to staff in top-security jails and young offender institutions and seen by The Times said: “Three Muslim prisoners took an officer hostage in an office.

“Their demands indicated they supported radical Islamist extremism.

“All staff are reminded to remain vigilant to the increased risk of potential attacks on prison officers inspired by these and last Wednesday’s events.”

Counter-terrorism officers have been brought in to investigate the attack at the maximum security jail, during which a female warder was also injured.

So far, 10 people have been held by detectives investigating the young soldier’s death, including Adebowale and Adebolajo.

These include a 50-year-old man, arrested on Monday, who was released on bail yesterday.

A 22-year-old man arrested in Highbury, north London, on Sunday and three men detained on Saturday over the killing have all been released on bail, as has a fifth man, aged 29.

Two women, aged 29 and 31, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder but later released without charge.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he was aware of an ‘increasing number of complaints’ from Muslim prisoners in the High Security prison estate who claim to have been intimidated to join the prison-based ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Mr Leech said: “Radicalisation of Muslims in the High Security Estate is nothing new and the existence of the Muslim Brotherhood is equally well-known, what I find disturbing is that I have seen an increasing number of Muslim inmates and their families complaining that their loved ones are being intimidated into joining this group and some have received injuries, perhaps unconnected with their refusal, after persistently declining to join.

“One firm of personal injury solicitors I am in touch with confirm they act for a Muslim inmate seriously injured in Full Sutton prison after he continually refused to join the Full Sutton Muslim Brotherhood – unusually and perhaps of significance is the fact that prison staff at HMP Full Sutton have given evidence supporting his case.

“Prison gangs like the Muslim Brotherhood can feed on fear and perpetrate a belief that there is safety in numbers – we should not forget that the Prison Inspection report published in April 2013 on Full Sutton said:

We had two main areas of concern. First, the perceptions of black and minority ethnic prisoners and Muslim prisoners about many aspects of their treatment and conditions were much more negative than for white and non-Muslim prisoners. For example, significantly fewer told us staff treated them with respect and significantly more said they felt unsafe.

“Treating all prisoners with respect and equality is the challenge for the management of Full Sutton, a Maximum Security prison which in so many other respects has shown itself well able to rise to difficult challenges and overcome them – and on this important one it must not be allowed to fail.”