Out of the Shadows: Getting Ahead of Prisoner Radicalization
The potential for radicalization of prison inmates in the United States poses a threat of unknown magnitude to the national security of the U.S. Prisons have long been places where extremist ideology and calls to violence could find a willing ear, and conditions are often conducive to radicalization. With the world’s largest prison population (over 2 million – ninety-three percent of whom are in state and local prisons and jails)1 and highest incarceration rate (701 out of every 100,000) 2, America faces what could be an enormous challenge – every radicalized prisoner becomes a potential terrorist recruit. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently stated that “[t]he threat of homegrown terrorist cells – radicalized online, in prisons and in other groups of socially isolated souls – may be as dangerous as groups like al Qaeda, if not more so. They certainly present new challenges to detection.”3 The London transit bombings of 2005 and the Toronto terrorist plot of 2006, to name just two incidents, illustrate the threat posed by a state’s own radicalized citizens. By acting upon international lessons learned, the U.S. may operate from a proactive position.