Groups promoting extremist brands of Islam are likely to try to use federal prisons “to radicalize and recruit inmates,” says a Justice Department investigation. The New York Times says a report being issued today by the Justice inspector general’s office concludes that safeguards are so loose in the 105 federal prisons that inmate chapels “remain vulnerable to infiltration by religious extremists.”
Members of Congress worry that groups training Muslim chaplains have terrorist ties and breed extremism. The investigation found that the problem of “radicalized” prayer sessions was less a reflection of chaplains than of unsupervised inmates who lead their own worship meetings.
The report, the first detailed look into how the federal prisons have dealt with extremist beliefs since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will likely prove controversial among Muslim leaders, who say they have been subjected to unfair criticism. The inspector general concluded that while the problem of terrorist recruitment in prisons was not necessarily widespread, officials needed a number of improvements. Prison officials have moved to fix some problems by demanding more information about outside groups that train chaplains and by improving communications with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Arizona Senator John Kyl said the report confirmed his concerns about the spread of extremist messages in the prison system, where Muslims represent an estimated 9,000 of the 150,000 inmates.