The government is seriously considering placing all convicted Islamist terrorist prisoners in England and Wales in a single secure unit, a proposal for a "British Alcatraz" that is prompting alarm among prison chiefs.

The idea would overturn 50 years of dispersing the most dangerous prisoners in the system and is expected to be backed by a review set up by the justice secretary, Michael Gove, to examine how the 130 convicted Islamist terrorists are dealt with behind bars.

Earlier this week, David Cameron gave a strong hint in a speech on prison reform that the option of a separate secure unit is being looked at. The prime minister said he was ready to consider major changes in the location of convicted terrorist prisoners to prevent them recruiting up to 1,000 current prisoners who have been identified as being at risk of extremist radicalisation.

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