Segregation of inmates, the denial of radical texts and aggressive screening of clerics all are needed to stop Islamist radicalization from taking root in Canadian prisons, a new study recommends.
In "From Rehabilitation to Recruitment," Macdonald-Laurier Institute fellow Alex Wilner examines the evolution of Islamist radicalism in Europe and the U.S. and draws lessons for Canada.
"So far, in Canada, it's just a threat," he writes in a column published Monday in the Globe and Mail summarizing his findings and recommendations. "But European countries have a very real problem, especially with Islamist radicals spreading militant, politically violent interpretations of their religion among the general prison population, and it's a growing issue in the United States."
And recent convictions in a series of terrorism cases will increase the number of jihadis in custody. That's why he believes counter-radicalization policies are needed by the Correctional Service Canada now, including a purge of radical literature from prison libraries and careful screening of clerics who counsel inmates:
"Like all Canadians, convicted terrorists have a right to practise their faith. But not to the total exclusion of legitimate security concerns. CSC must employ enough qualified imams to attend to prisoners' religious needs, screen them properly to be sure they are not part of the problem rather than the solution, and train them in confronting extremism effectively."
U.S. prison officials should study Wilner's recommendations, too. As we've reported, those in charge of inmate cleric programs have done a poor job screening the ideology of preachers with access to dangerous inmates and the material on the shelves in prison libraries.