The path to reforming extremist prisoners could lie in the mundane but challenging arena of the boxing ring, an MP has claimed.
Charlotte Leslie, a keen boxer, insisted the sport is proving successful at helping prevent extremism in prisons such as Doncaster and called for a pilot of non-contact boxing in more prisons.
Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said sport can help prisoners’ rehabilitation and said he would meet the Bristol North West MP to discuss her suggestion.
But Home Affairs Select Committee chair Keith Vaz said he was “not absolutely convinced” that boxing “or table tennis” would form a central part of deradicalisation programmes.
During exchanges during justice questions in the Commons, Ms Leslie said: “The often troubled young men and women who fall prey to manipulative and destructive extremist ideology, instead of having their anger and drive directed elsewhere, are to be pitied.
“Are you aware of the success of boxing in rehabilitation in helping prevent extremism, including in prisons like HMP Doncaster? And will you look at piloting non-contact boxing schemes in more prisons and for more categories of offender?”
Mr Selous replied: “You are right that there is promising evidence for the positive influence of sport in rehabilitation and I can tell you that across prisons in England and Wales we have 183 different sports based interventions, though not all of them are available in all prisons.
“I think the national alliance of sport for the desistence of crime will go further in this area and I will be very happy to meet with you to talk further about the initiatives you mention.”
But Mr Vaz intervened: “I’m not absolutely convinced that teaching potential jihadists boxing or table tennis will actually form an essential part of a deradicalisation programme.