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Punishment & Society

  • Are prisons really schools for terrorism? Challenging the rhetoric on prison radicalization

    "When governments justify the necessity to segregate and/or isolate terrorist inmates from mainstream prisoners, they commonly raise concerns about their prisons becoming schools for terrorism. Yet, these concerns are often based on limited information about prisoner radicalization, potentially resulting in the mismanagement (both financially and psychologically) of terrorist inmates in many countries. This article challenges contemporary research on prison radicalization and recruitment by highlighting several factors that may hamper these activities to demonstrate why some prison regimes and their programmes for housing terrorist inmates face a greater risk than others. In contrast to other studies, this article concludes that the radicalization and recruitment of mainstream prisoners by terrorist inmates under certain prison conditions is not necessarily a given outcome" (p. 74). Sections of this article include: abstract; introduction; prison case studies-the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Pakistan; radicalization and the prison environment; ad conclusion. "This article has provided an alternative perspective to contemporary discussion on prison radicalization, which appears to over-state the threat by viewing all prisons as ‘schools’ or ‘universities’ for terrorism. However, by examining a cross-section of correctional systems, this article has identified several factors that challenge common perceptions about the schools or universities for terrorism theory. It concludes that prison radicalization and recruitment for Islamist militant groups are more the exception than the rule and, when prison radicalization has occurred, the chances of these inmates then being recruited into a terrorist group are slim. In addition, once released, the relationship between these individuals committing acts of terrorism and their time in prison is tenuous at best" (p. 95).