The absence of programs to deradicalize people convicted on terrorism charges risks the spread of extremist ideas to other inmates in U.S. prisons and beyond, warns a study by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, the Wall Street Journal reports. “The U.S. lags behind many Western nations and must make such programs a priority,” said the report, which seeks to examine the causes of homegrown U.S. support for the Islamic State, the terror network widely known as ISIS. Ignoring the risk of radicalization in U.S. prisons could allow networks to spread, says Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, an author of the report.
“We have seen in Europe how extremist networks are created and cultivated in prisons with large populations of jihadis and, as this contingent continues to grow in U.S. federal prisons, we are likely to see similar patterns here,” he said. At least two members of the cell responsible for the 2015 Paris attacks, which left more than 100 dead, met in prison. The threat of extremism in the U.S. remains small compared with countries in Europe like France, which has seen more than 1,900 people travel to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State, according to the Soufan Center, a group that tracks extremism. About 140 people are in U.S. prisons on charges related to supporting the Islamic State. Many never attempted to travel or expressed an interest in violent attacks, although they may have promoted the Islamic State online or lied to federal agents about offering logistical or other forms of material support to the group. The federal Bureau of Prisons said it has monitored prisoners with a connection to terrorism and works closely with the FBI and other agencies to prevent networks from spreading.