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Facts and Fictions about Islam in Prison: Assessing Prisoner Radicalization in Post-9/11 America

This report explains how violence due to prison radicalization by Muslims is a rare event. "This report assesses the radicalization of Muslim prisoners in post-9/11 America. In the last decade, Muslim prisoners have been scrutinized for ties to terrorist and other extremist organizations, not to mention characterized as both a “threat” and a “danger” to national security, due to the influence of foreign jihadist movements. However, closer scrutiny shows that these fears have failed to materialize-indeed, despite the existence of an estimated 350,000 Muslim prisoners, there is little evidence of widespread radicalization or successful foreign recruitment, and only one documented case of prison-based terrorist activity. Nonetheless, some prison systems have implemented an aggressive posture toward these inmates and have made suppressive tactics their bedrock policy. This approach unfortunately overlooks Islam’s long history of positive influence on prisoners, including supporting inmate rehabilitation for decades " (p. 5). Sections of this report following an executive summary include: introduction to the politics of Islam and radicalization in American prisons-social fears vs. social science; how Islam operates in American prisons-effects of Islamic values and beliefs on inmate behavior, and the role of social networks; investigating extremist views and violence among Muslim inmates-failure to define terms and the problem, whether prisons are factories for extremists, and understanding the challenges of extremist ideology; and conclusion-false alarms, toward best practices, fostering an Islamic marketplace, and stabilizing prisoner re-entry.