British prisons are filling up with Muslims – Why ask activists

SHAFAQNA  – Adam Smith, a human rights lawyer based in London told Shafaqna in exclusive comments that Britain’s justice system has increasingly targeted Muslim men and women, criminalizing an entire segment of the population based on terror profiling, thus leading to injustice and social disparity.

“Why has there been a surge in the number of Muslim prisoners?” he asked

In 2002, 5,502 prisoners in England and Wales said they were Muslim. Three years later, the number had risen to 7,246 and almost a decade on, by December 2014, it had reached 12,225.

That 20% increase in the jail population has been outstripped by the rise in Muslim inmates – up 122%. In the 2001 census, 3% of people in England and Wales said they were Muslim – 1.55 million. By 2011, that had gone up to 4.8 % – 2.7 million people – so you’d expect the numbers in prison to go up too.

But the percentage rise in Muslim prisoner numbers has been far greater than the Muslim population increase: Muslim inmates now account for 14.4% of those behind bars, compared with 7.7 % in 2002.

The media focus on terrorism might lead some to think that the Muslim prisoner population increase is linked to convictions of Islamist extremists.

But the figures don’t bear that out either.

Ministry of Justice data shows that between October 2012 and January 2015, there were 104 Muslims out of 178 prisoners who’d been jailed for “terrorism-related offences where the motivation stemmed from extreme ideology” – less than 1% of the total Muslim prisoner population.

Another factor that’s cited is the increasing number of foreign national prisoners: there were about 10,500 last year – one in eight of the total prisoner population.

Ministry of Justice analysis in 2013 suggested that a significant minority, 30%, of Muslim prisoners weren’t British – last year the top 10 overseas nationalities included inmates from two predominantly Muslim countries: 522 from Pakistan, 417 from Somalia.

It does lend some support to the theory that as the UK’s ethnic and population mix has changed, driven by rising levels of immigration, travel from abroad and births to foreign-born mothers, so the prison population has become more diverse, with greater numbers of Muslims.

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