Number of Muslims in prison on the rise
Categories: Latest News
Tuesday March 24 2015
The Daily Express last week reported on new prison population figures which show the percentage of Muslim prisoners held in category A prisons, such as HMP Belmarsh has risen by 108 per cent since March 2010.
There were 127 Muslim prisoners held in high security prisons in March 2010 with the figure rising to 265 in December 2014. The paper notes the total number of prisoners in Belmarsh has remained broadly level which suggests that Muslims prisoners now make up a larger proportion of the total prison population at Belmarsh.
The paper adds that data shows Muslim prisoners made up 14% of Belmarsh inmates in spring 2010. By contrast, Muslims accounted for a third of prisoners at the end of last year. Moreover, the figures further reveal that the number of foreign nationals in Belmarsh has increased by almost a third, which may account for some of the increase in the number of Muslim prisoners.
Figures further show that the Muslim population at HMP Pentonville increased by 40% in the last five years and by a sixth at Wormwood Scrubs over the same period.
BBC News observes that the number of Muslim prisoners in England and Wales rose from 5,502 prisoners in 2002 to 7,246 in 2005 and to 12,225 in December 2014. While prisoner numbers have also risen from an average of 70,778 in 2002 to 84,691 in December 2014, an increase of 20%, the rate of increase of Muslims prisoners has been substantially higher at 122%.
Causes fuelling the rise remains unclear. BBC News explores the Muslim population figures for England and Wales using Census data, which indicate that the Muslim population grew from 3% in 2001 to 4.8% in 2011. The growth in the size of the British Muslim population over the last decade has been just over 60% though the rise in the Muslim prisoner population has been comparably greater doubling from 7.7% in 2002 to 14.4% at the end of 2014.
Moreover, the Daily Express and BBC News both note that the Ministry of Justice data indicates there were 104 Muslims out of total of 178 prisoners who had been jailed for “terrorism-related offences where the motivation stemmed from extreme ideology” between October 2012 and January 2015. This makes up less than 1% of the total Muslim prisoner population and therefore follows that convictions for terrorism related offences is not a key driving factor behind the recent increases.
The rise is numbers is particularly disconcerting considering the findings of a 2010 report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dame Anne Owers, which highlighted the tendency of Muslim prisoners to report negative experiences in relation to safety and relations with staff and other prisoners. The Daily Express notes Owers remarks that the rise could be fuelled by a combination of socio-economic factors. Owers noted that “Muslims in Britain have a notably younger age profile than non-Muslims and are more likely to come from lower socio-economic groups.”
The problem of the rising number of young Muslims ending up in prison and the failure of policy to address the issue has been voiced a number of times by shadow attorney general, MP Sadiq Khan. He told the Daily Express, “Five years ago, the Chief Inspector of Prisons called on the Government to put in place a national strategy for dealing with the rising numbers of Muslim prisoners.
“The government have ignored this call, all the while the numbers keep rising, which is more crime, more victims and more cost to the taxpayer.”