Prisons Tighten Muslim Chaplain Criteria; Shortage Seen Leading to Extremist Ideology

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 16, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Prisons Tighten Muslim Chaplain Criteria; Shortage Seen Leading to Extremist Ideology


Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons, criticized in May for allowing a shortage of Muslim chaplains to threaten prison security and increase the potential for terrorism, has taken "important steps" in correcting the problems, a report said yesterday.

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said the bureau had either closed or resolved all but three of 16 recommendations made to correct problems in the selection, screening and supervision of Muslim chaplains, contractors and volunteers who work with 9,000 Muslim inmates.

Two months ago, Mr. Fine said that without sufficient Muslim chaplains on staff, inmates were more likely to lead their own religious services, distort Islam and espouse extremist beliefs. The "presence of extremist chaplains, contractors or volunteers ... can pose a threat to institutional security and could implicate national security if inmates are encouraged to commit terrorist acts against the United States," he added.

He said it was "imperative" that the bureau had in place sound screening and supervision practices that would "identify persons who seek to disrupt the order of its institutions or to inflict harm on the United States through terrorism."

Mr. Fine noted at the time that only 10 Muslim chaplains were available to the bureau, three fewer than needed to overcome "a critical shortage," and that the chaplains had told investigators that some inmates were being radicalized by other prisoners.

Harley G. Lappin, director of the Bureau of Prisons, said in a response to the inspector general's report that the agency had developed further screening criteria to be used during the application process for Muslim chaplains, volunteers and contractors.

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