CHAPTER 10
Misidentified and Misunderstood
Extremists and Extremist Groups Incarcerated
in U.S. Correctional Facilities

Jeffrey Ian Ross

One of President Barack Obama’s campaign promises was to close the prison in Guantanamo and shift the remaining detainees to one or more correctional facilities in the United States. Shortly after being elected the Obama administration found this pledge more difficult than imagined. Few states and jurisdictions were willing to accommodate these individuals. It created sufficient controversy and fear, especially when it was revealed that the detainees would be shifted to Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Jails and prisons in the United States have a long history of incarcerating individuals considered to be extremists.1 By the same token, our correctional facilities have served as catalysts for individuals without ideological convictions to adopt radical beliefs and practices. While inside, these inmates are often subjected to more stringent or harsher prison conditions than the “traditional” convict, such as increased surveillance and brutality by correctional personnel. Over time these convicts may attract allies not only behind bars but also in the wider community, and thus may extend their identities from convicts to incarcerated celebrities.

This chapter reviews the contemporary history of extremists and the groups they belong to in U.S. jails and prisons. It presents the conceptual difficulties of trying to understand this phenomenon, reviews the major

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