SYDNEY (Reuters) - 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 premier of New South Wales state said on Sunday.
The unit will be within a maximum-security prison and have capacity for 54 inmates, who will be isolated and intensely monitored, said the state’s Premier 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 told reporters.
There are 33 people within the New South Wales’ 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.
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.
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.
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.
Reporting by Harry Pearl; Editing by Robert Birsel