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British target prisons as terror incubators

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Prison officers say a formal strategy is required to deal with the problem. "

Some of our prisoners have extremely radical views and will use prisons as a breeding ground to try and recruit prisoners who are vulnerable," says Glyn Travis, a spokesman for the Prison Officers Association. "We are calling on the government and prison service to look at strategies to deal with extremists to ensure that prisons are safe."

Record-high prison population

Britain's prison population is at a record high, well above the capacity level of about 80,000 inmates. Though convicted terrorists at present make up a small fraction of the total prison population, with about 120 of them at present, one estimate compiled for members of Parliament forecasts that numbers will shoot up to 1,600 in the next decade.

Last year alone, there were 16 major terrorism-related trials in Britain and 42 people were convicted of offenses.

In the coming weeks, two high-profile trials will get under way: one, of the people accused of involvement in the July 7, 2005, attacks and another of those charged in a plot a year later to blow up transatlantic flights.

Some countries, such as Turkey and the Netherlands, try to get around the problem of radicalization by keeping all the radicals together. Britain has only a limited number of maximum-security facilities where it could keep convicts considered most menacing.

But Britain's prison chief, Phil Wheatley, has cautioned against concentrating Islamists together, preferring to disperse them throughout the high-security estate.

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