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  1. ITV Report

Counter-terrorism experts to tackle extremism in prisons

Credit: PA

A specialist team of counter-terrorism experts is being launched as the Government steps up efforts to tackle "poisonous" extremism in prisons.

From Monday a new 100-strong task force will examine intelligence from around the country to assess the danger posed by radicalisation behind bars.

The team will advise prisons in England and Wales on how to deal with specific threats and help train personnel on how to deter offenders from being lured into extremism.

Experts will also advise on how to manage dangerous and high-profile extremist prisoners.

Ministers announced plans to boost the response to radicalisation under sweeping prison reform measures unveiled in November.

The introduction of the counter-terrorism unit comes after a Government-ordered review last year concluded that Islamist extremism is a growing problem within jails.

The assessment found evidence of offenders advocating support for Islamic State and "charismatic" prisoners acting as "self-styled emirs" to radicalise other inmates.

As a result of the findings the Government announced plans to hold dangerous extremists in separate prison units.

Figures suggest that more than 1,000 prisoners have been identified as extremist or vulnerable to extremism at any one time.

The new task force will target all forms of extremism including far-right ideology.

Credit: PA

Prisons minister Sam Gyimah said: "It is right 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.

"By countering the poisonous and repugnant activities of extremists, we will help ensure the safe running of our prisons and keep the public safe."

Jointly formed between HM Prison and Probation Service and the Home Office - the task force will work closely with police and other enforcement agencies.

A strategy centre based in London will be supported by specialist regional teams across the country.

The unit builds on progress already made in addressing extremism, the Ministry of Justice said.

Other measures taken include an instruction to governors to ban extremist literature and remove anyone from communal worship who is promoting anti-British beliefs or other dangerous views.