The Current

Radicalization of prisoners is a problem in Canada too

It is not uncommon to hear Muslim prayer inside a prison or to have inmates turn to religion - any religion - while doing time. But the belief that one of the Paris attackers was radicalized in jail has reinforced concerns that prisons, in many countries, may play a role in the recruitment of Islamist extremists....
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It is not uncommon to hear Muslim prayer inside a prison or to have inmates turn to religion - any religion - while doing time. But the belief that one of the Paris attackers was radicalized in jail has reinforced concerns that prisons, in many countries, may play a role in the recruitment of Islamist extremists.

French officials say Amedy Coulibaly, one of the men who turned a Kosher market into a scene of terror last week, picked up his belief in radical Islam while in a French jail. It's also where he first met one of the brothers from the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Radicalization spreading inside prison walls is a current concern, and not only in France. Just last month, Correctional Service Canada convened an international meeting on it.

As a former Muslim chaplain within Canada's penitentiary system, Imam Yasin Dwyer is very familiar with Islam inside our federal prisons. For the past 11 years, he developed chaplaincy programs for Muslim offenders, and worked extensively with Muslim inmates convicted of terror-related offences. At the time of his resignation last September, he was the only full-time Muslim chaplain working for CSC.

Imam Yasin Dwyer was in Hamilton, Ontario.

We did put in a request to speak to someone at Corrections Canada and the Public Safety Minister. No one was made available. However we did receive a statement from the CSC that reads, in part:

"CSC addresses the challenges linked to radicalization through existing case management practices, which are individualized for each offender as part of his or her correctional plan. CSC has shared, and will continue to share, information and best practices on this important topic with both its domestic partners -- including the RCMP, CSIS and Public Safety, etc. -- and its international partners, including the United Nations, Interpol, foreign governments, etc."

While last week's attacks in France may have brought these concerns to the fore, prisons have long been a potential breeding ground for dangerous beliefs.

Mark Hamm is an expert in the field of prison radicalization, a former prison warden. He's a professor in the Department of Criminology at Indian State University. And he's the author of "The Spectacular Few: Prisoner Radicalization and the Evolving Terrorist Threat." We reached Mark Hamm in Bloomington, Indiana.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal and Julian Uzielli.

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