Muslims convicted of sex offenses could opt out of treatment programs intended to stop them offending because open discussion of their crimes is against their religion.
Ahtsham Ali, the prison service’s Muslim adviser, said that there was a “legitimate Islamic position” that criminals should not discuss their crimes with others.
The move could result in Muslim sex offenders being able to avoid sex offender treatment programs run by the prison service, which involve group discussion of crimes.
Ali is now planning to hold discussions with officials in the Ministry of Justice over the issue. He told Inside Time, the prisoners’ newspaper: “I will be taking it forward as a matter of some urgency with colleagues, including those with policy responsibility for the sex offender treatment program, who are very willing to discuss these issues.”
The possibility of an exemption for Muslims came to light after a prisoner wrote to the newspaper asking for clarification of the position of Muslims on the program.
He wrote: “I have always insisted that it was against Islamic teachings to discuss your offense [with] anyone, let alone act it out within a peer group.”
A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “We are seeking to ensure that the policy for the sex offender treatment program is sensitive to the diversity of religions within the prison context.”
However Mark Leech, editor of the Prisons Handbook, said that a change could lead to Muslims spending longer in prison because their risk of reoffending could not be assessed.