Islamist extremists are intimidating other inmates to convert to Islam and guards at Britain's most secure jail have "lost control" over the situation, reports London's Evening Standard.
Lawyer Rubert Pardoe recently told a judge at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales that Islamist bullying was so severe that some prisoners at Thamesmead jail are kept in "lockdown" to protect them from the Muslim inmates.
"There is a sense that the prison authorities have lost control. Many defendants in my client's situation are in total lockdown. There's a degree of fear as to the need to conform to certain religious views in Belmarsh (prison)," Pardoe said.
Prisoners, including Pardoe's client, reportedly are scared of being transferred to Belmarsh due to the immense pressure emanating from a rising number of radical Muslim inmates.
Growing terrorism convictions have led to a significant increase of the Muslim inmate population at Belmarsh, who now represent more than a quarter of the total population.
"We have concerns that Islamist extremists are deliberately getting custodial sentences in order to target vulnerable prisoners. They are often clever and well educated and can brainwash young people," assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, Glyn Travis said in December.
Michael Adebolajo – one of two terrorists who brutally murdered British soldier Lee Rigby – was reportedly transferred from Belmarsh in 2014 to prevent him radicalizing other prisoners.
Adelbolajo – a convert to Islam – admitted to helping hack Rigby to death in a ruthless, daylight attack in London in 2013
"My religion is everything. When I came to Islam I realized that... real success is not just what you can acquire, but really is if you make it to paradise, because then you can relax," testified Adelbolajo, acknowledging that radical Islamic beliefs motivated the attack.
Some lawyers have argued that prison security measures are so drastic that it can be impossible to meet with their clients. In light of the situation, senior judges forced Belmarsh officials to establish a video feed for defense teams in court to communicate with their clients.
These assertions corroborate growing concerns regarding widespread Islamic radicalization in jails. Justice Secretary Michael Gove has already ordered an inquiry to evaluate the impact of Islamist inmates on prisoner radicalization.
A Ministry of Justice official dismissed the concerns as "untrue. HMP Belmarsh is not in lockdown and continues to operate as normal,"
But challenges posed by imprisoned radical Islamists are "a global problem," Patrick Dunleavy, former deputy inspector general for the New York State Department of Corrections and author of The Fertile Soil of Jihad told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Jihadists have an "uncanny ability" to flourish in prisons, he said.
"Until we acknowledge the threat and devise effective counter measures to address the problem the threat will continue to spread," Dunleavy said.