Prisons Breeding Ground for Terror? Moderate Muslim Chaplains in Short Supply, Justice Report Warns

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A shortage of Muslim chaplains at U.S. Bureau of Prisons facilities nationwide threatens prison security and is a terrorist threat, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said yesterday.

"Without a sufficient number of Muslim chaplains on staff, ... inmates are much more likely to lead their own religious services, distort Islam and espouse extremist beliefs," Mr. Fine said.

An Inspector General's Office report on the selection, screening and supervision of Muslim chaplains, contractors and volunteers, who work with 9,000 Islamic inmates, blames the shortage on a hiring freeze. The bureau has no recruiting strategy or alternative measures to address the shortage.

"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," Mr. Fine said.

"It is imperative the [Bureau of Prisons] has in place sound screening and supervision practices that will identify persons who seek to disrupt the order of its institutions or to inflict harm on the United States through terrorism," he said.

Mr. Fine said only 10 Muslim chaplains are available to the bureau, three fewer than needed to overcome "a critical shortage," and none has witnessed inmates being radicalized by contractors or volunteers through inappropriate messages.

But, the chaplains told investigators, some inmates were being radicalized by other inmates.

One Muslim chaplain said Islamic-extremist inmates told other inmates that if they were going to convert to Islam, they had to overthrow the U.S. government because "Muslims aren't cowards."

The Inspector General's Office began the probe after several members of Congress expressed concern that the Bureau of Prisons had relied on two Islamic groups to endorse its Muslim chaplains, the Islamic Society of North America and the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council. Both organizations have been under federal investigation as part of a larger probe into terrorist financing. …