Are Terrorists Recruiting In U.S. Prisons? The House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing Wednesday examining terrorist recruitment inside the walls of American jails and prisons. Experts say the number of criminals who turn to extremism behind bars is small but worrisome. Civil rights groups argue there's not enough evidence to hold a congressional hearing.
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Hearing To Examine Terrorist Recruitment In Prisons

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Hearing To Examine Terrorist Recruitment In Prisons

Hearing To Examine Terrorist Recruitment In Prisons

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

As NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, people who study national security say the number of criminals who turn to extremism behind bars is small, but worrisome.

CARRIE JOHNSON: Mark Hamm, who teaches criminology at Indiana State University, studied the case.

MARK HAMM: I mean this is fairly remarkable, that you can send somebody off to a maximum security prison and while behind bars they can still wage a terrorist attack.

JOHNSON: Gregory Saathoff studies prison radicalization at the University of Virginia. He says the case exposed a vulnerability.

GREGORY SAATHOFF: Depending on budgets and priorities, there are some states that are much less able to devote resources, just in terms of understanding what's going on within their prisons.

JOHNSON: Laura Murphy leads the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union.

LAURA MURPHY: This approach is just a recipe for sensationalizing and scaring people and turning neighbor against neighbor and it promotes racial profiling and religious intolerance.

JOHNSON: But Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York who's leading the hearing, told Fox News he's not scapegoating a whole religion.

PETER KING: Prisoners in jail often are looking for a new alternative. And being converted to Islam, there's actually nothing wrong with that. In fact, in many cases it's ideal for prisoners. This is the religion they've been looking for.

JOHNSON: Again, Mark Hamm.

HAMM: And this religious foundation can be very esoteric and also very seductive. It can constitute sort of cherry-picking versions of the Holy Quran and putting them together in such a way that they seem to justify violence against infidels.

JOHNSON: Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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