The story is told in the Daily Telegraph, which quotes a prison service spokesman as confirming “that a review of procedures was under way and that discussions were being held with Muslim prison chiefs”.
He said: “A very small number of Muslim prisoners have raised concerns with the Muslim Adviser.
“The Muslim Adviser is looking at different Islamic standpoints so there can be further discussion.”
He said, however, that at the moment no Muslim prisoner would be exempt from a rehab course on the grounds of religion alone.
He added: “Each prison-based offending behaviour programme has clear selection criteria, based on risk and need, and rigorous assessment procedures which are used by programme staff when assessing the suitability of offenders referred to programmes.”
No one will be forced to do a course, it seems, but if a prisoner refuses he’ll have privileges forfeited and will serve his full sentence.
Which is as it should be, but what’s this about “further discussion” with the “Muslim Adviser”? And who’s paying for a “Muslim Adviser” to service our prisons?
Why are we tiptoeing around Muslims again? If they’re in the slammer for something they’ve done wrong, they’re paying their debt to society. There may be all kinds of things wrong with our justice system and prisons, but that’s another argument, and they’re in there because they’ve committed crimes.
What happens to them in prison is part of the punishment and rehabilitation, and should be the same for all prisoners. Religion is a privilege in my book, not a necessity, and the freedom to indulge in it should be subject to the same rules as freedom to indulge in any other hobbies prisoners happen to like.
And, along with those freedoms, it should be one that can be taken away if a prisoner is breaking the rules.
And it certainly shouldn’t be something a prisoner can use as an excuse for bunking off rehab courses.
So forget the discussions. If they don’t do the courses, let them continue to have to serve their full whack – without privileges.