How U.S. Is Handling Hundreds of Inmates In Terrorism Cases


A decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, the New York Times looked at how federal prisons have handled the challenge of extremist violence. Among the findings: 171 prisoners remain at Guantánamo. As of Oct. 1, the federal Bureau of Prisons reported that it was holding 362 people convicted in terrorism-related cases, 269 with what the bureau calls a connection to international terrorism — up from just 50 in 2000. Another 93 inmates have a connection to domestic terrorism.

Terrorists who plotted to massacre Americans are likely to die in prison. Many inmates whose conduct fell far short of outright terrorism are serving sentences of a decade or more, the result of a prevention strategy to sideline radicals well before they could initiate deadly plots. Since 2006, the Bureau of Prisons has moved many of those convicted in terrorism cases to two special units that severely restrict visits and phone calls. In creating what are Muslim-dominated units, officials have fostered a sense of solidarity and defiance, and set off a long-running legal dispute over limits on group prayer. Officials have warned in court filings about the danger of radicalization, but the Bureau of Prisons has nothing comparable to the deradicalization programs instituted in many countries. More than 300 prisoners have completed their sentences and been freed since 2001.

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