Groups of Muslim prisoners in high-security wings of the British jails are trying to dominate staff through "fear and instability", a new report claimed on Sunday.
According to an internal review of Cambridgeshire's Whitemoor prison obtained by The Observer, the staff believe a "serious incident is imminent".
According to the report, Muslims represent just under a third of the jail's 500 inmates. But some members of the staff believe these prisoners have become more of a gang than just a religious group and this, combined with the facility's lack of awareness, has led to a shift in control.
On arrival, prisoners particularly white prisoners are often warned about the gangs and the tension between staff and black and ethnic minority (BME) inmates is growing.
"Staff appeared reluctant to challenge inappropriate behaviour, in particular among the BME prisoners for fear of doing the wrong thing," the report said.
"This was leading to a general feeling of a lack of control and shifting the power dynamic towards prisoners," it said. "A wing itself felt particularly unstable with a general lack of confidence among staff."
The apprehension about Muslim prisoners has potentially damaging consequences and is in danger of "leading to hostility and Islamophobia".
Whitemoor is a maximum security prison for males and includes a pilot assessment focusing on the potential link between severe personality disorders and dangerousness.
The inmates of Whitemoor are classed as category A or B. Category A prisoners are those whose escape is considered to be a threat to national security or highly dangerous to the public, while category B prisoners are those for whom escape must be made very difficult.