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Islamic militancy

‘Supermax II’: Australia to build first prison aimed at isolating radical inmates

The new facility would house 54 inmates and ease the process of keeping radicalised inmates separate from others

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 June, 2017, 3:44pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 June, 2017, 9:44pm

Australia is to build its first prison aimed at isolating militants and stopping the spread of radical beliefs through the prison system as part of efforts to eliminate terrorism.

The new “Supermax II” facility would house 54 inmates, the Daily Telegraph reported, and ease the process of keeping radicalised inmates separate from others.

The unit will be within Goulburn’s high-security Supermax prison, said the premier of New South Wales state Gladys Berejiklian.

“We’ll be giving $47 million over the next three years to have the extra capacity to isolate those prisoners who are likely to try a spread radicalisation through the prison network,” Berejiklian said.

There are 33 people within the NSW prison system who have been jailed for terrorist offences, the state government said.

Australia has seen a series of “lone wolf” Islamist-inspired attacks recently, prompting a review of police tactics and the powers of state and federal authorities.

“We’re a government taking nothing to chance, we’ll be making sure we continue to have the toughest position in the nation in relation to reducing and eliminating terrorism activity,” Berejiklian said.

Peter Severin, the NSW corrections commissioner, told the Daily Telegraph : “We keep the al-Qaida affiliates, who are highly disciplined and very dogmatic, away from the IS affiliates, who are unruly young tearaways who engage in noisy behaviour and challenge everyone and everybody.”

The overhaul would include soundproofing and improvements to audio and CCTV to monitor visits from family and friends, and facilitate intelligence gathering.

“We are dispersing them in a way that will allow us eventually to get them to disengage,” Severin told reporters.

“By centralising those who have the potential to cause the most harm, we actually keep the rest of the system safe.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week signalled a drive to reform parole laws, including a ban on parole for violent offenders with links to militancy, following a deadly siege claimed by the Islamic State group on Monday.

Police shot dead gunman Yacqub Khayre, who was on parole for a violent home invasion, in the city of Melbourne after he killed a man in an apartment block and held a woman hostage for several hours.

Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis both launched stinging criticism of state governments, which are responsible for parole laws, after the Melbourne attack.

Brandis said he was in favour of the separate facility to counter radicalisation within Supermax, as long as it worked in tandem with formalised programmes.

“It seems to me to be a good thing, so long as the way in which these prisons are designed and configured doesn’t mean all the terrorists are together in each other’s company reinforcing each other’s ideology,” Brandis told Sky News on Sunday.

“I would suggest to my NSW counterparts a proposal like that has to work hand in glove with effective deradicalisation programmes.”

Australia passed laws last year allowing the indefinite detention of anyone convicted of terror-related offences if authorities believed that person posed a threat after their release.

A boost to police resources – 30 counterterrorism offices and 20 frontline police – in Queensland was announced on Sunday in response to the “ever-growing” threat of local terror attacks.

On Saturday the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced temporary concrete bollards would be erected in central Melbourne locations including Federation Square and Bourke Street Mall to protect the public.

On Thursday, police in New South Wales were granted the authority to shoot suspects in terrorist-related incidents even if the attacker does not pose an imminent threat.

Currently, police have to wait until a suspect demonstrates an imminent threat to others.

The change comes after questions were raised about the police strategy of “contain and negotiate” in hostage situations.

A coroner said last month police had failed to act quickly enough to tackle a 2014 siege in a Sydney cafe. Three people including the hostage-taker were killed in the incident, Australia’s most deadly violence inspired by Islamist militants.

Reuters, The Guardian