This project was funded by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security, START, University of Maryland. The views expressed here are those of the authors and may not reflect those of the funding agencies. We thank Mark Hamm, Alan Krueger, Gary LaFree, Richard Legault, John Roberts, Marc Sageman, and Patricia Useem for their helpful comments.
Radicalization of U.S. prisoners
Article first published online: 25 SEP 2009
© 2009 by the American Society of Criminology
Criminology & Public Policy
Special Issue: SPECIAL ISSUE: Homeland Security and Terrorism
Volume 8, Issue 3, pages 561–592, August 2009
How to Cite
Useem, B. and Clayton, O. (2009), Radicalization of U.S. prisoners. Criminology & Public Policy, 8: 561–592. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9133.2009.00574.x
- Issue published online: 25 SEP 2009
- Article first published online: 25 SEP 2009
Concern has been expressed that prisoner radicalization poses a high probability threat to the safety of the United States. Although the threat of terrorist acts planned in prison is known to be above zero because of a nearly executed terrorist plot hatched in a state prison, the central finding of this research is that the actual probability is modest. The reasons for a modest probability are fourfold: Order and stability in U.S. prisons were achieved during the buildup period, prison officials successfully implemented efforts to counter the “importation” of radicalism, correctional leadership infused antiradicalization into their agencies, and inmates' low levels of education decreased the appeals of terrorism.
The prison environment permits a great deal of information to be collected on the activities and, more difficult to detect, planned activities of inmates after they are released. This environment requires the attentive observation of staff, collection of information from inmates, and efforts at different levels of a correctional agency to assemble, collate, and assess information; much of it is likely to be false and some will be vital.