Prisons to have Islamic adviser

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THE PRISON Service has appointed a top-level Islamic adviser as the number of Muslims in prison in England and Wales has more than doubled since 1991. Islam is now easily the fastest growing faith in prisons.

The new adviser will be Maqsood Ahmed, an imam who has worked in Leicester and Watford. He will work within the Prison Service chaplaincy.

Mosques have already been established in four prisons but many Muslim inmates feel poorly served by a system in which religion has traditionally been the responsibility of an Anglican chaplain employed by the Home Office.

There are 4,355 Muslim inmates; in 1991 there were 1,959. About 10 jails, including Birmingham, Wormwood Scrubs and Leeds, have Muslim populations of more than 10 per cent. Pentonville has the highest number, at 180, but the prison's imam can only visit for 10 hours a week.

The rise of Islam in prisons is linked partly to demographics, with the sons of Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants now reaching the age where they are most at risk of criminality. Others have converted once in jail or are foreign nationals.