America's jails are becoming a breeding ground for extremism, while many more prisoners released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center are turning to violence, according to a new op-ed by forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner. Problems ranging from basic statistical errors to a failure to see ideological violence in a different framework are creating a vast underestimation of Jihadist violence.
"Assessing future risk of dangerous Jihadist activity necessarily recognizes that an approach may borrow from clinical understandings about criminal and violent recidivism, but has to stay true to context (actual ideological violence or otherwise facilitating violence) in order to gain relevance," writes Welner.
A problem with providing inmates with legitimate, moderate Islamic materials compounds the problem in our own jails. The nature of jail life, where prisoners are in close proximity with violent offenders and extremist ideologies, makes the problem all more challenging. Western nations often do a poor job of assessing Islamic chaplains and imams who interact with the prisoners. They judge some radical imams to be permissible because they are only preaching political Islam or anti-Western though, instead of al-Qaida-style violence.
The problem in American jails is most serious in Guantanamo, where it is difficult to obtain accurate data on recidivism among released prisoners.
Prisoners who now are in jail abroad are counted, skewing the data about how many prisoners can commit violence. In addition, not all prisoners are properly identified and countries receiving prisoners are often poorly equipped to monitor them.
"If our government does not actively deradicalize with the message that Islam must seek equality rather than theocracy, tomorrow's prisoners be they in Gitmo or in any other prison in America -- will continue to amiably soak in hate and find comrades-in-arms who buy into that now-dominant message of Islamist supremacy and entitlement to violence," Welner writes.