Evidence is mounting that U.S. prisons, where about 35,000 inmates convert to Islam annually, are cause for concern, says the Christian Science Monitor. Experts disagree over how fertile the ground is for prison radicalization, but the list of worrisome cases is growing. Last month, Michael Finton, who reportedly converted to Islam in an Illinois prison, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to blow up a federal courthouse in Springfield, Il.
Despite this case and others, “It doesn’t seem to be happening. If prisons are incubators for radicalization, you’d think we would have seen it by now,” says Bert Useem, a sociologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. His three-year study on radicalization appeared in the August issue of Criminology and Public Policy. Among earlier cases: In 2005, federal agents thwarted attempts by a Muslim prison gang in California to attack synagogues and military sites. Last year, a Seattle barber and prison convert was killed while fighting with Al Qaeda militants in Somalia. In May, four ex-convicts in New York were charged with plotting to strike Jewish targets.