Are European prisons ‘universities for terrorists’?

Is there a problem of Islamist radicalization in French prisons? How should it be tackled and how to determine which inmates are radical and which are not?

France is one of the European countries hardest hit by the wave of terror. Up to 70 percent of the inmates in prison are Muslim, and many see French jails as a radicalization hotspot with some even calling them “universities for terrorists”.

Some convicted terrorists in European jails “sit atop the social pecking order,” and use their prison time to plot new attacks, and forge ties with petty criminals grooming them for jihad missions at home and abroad, in countries like Iraq and Syria, wrote the Wall Street Journal, citing local authorities. 

France’s solution to the problem has so far been containment.

We separate these inmates from the rest. It must become a general measure but it must be done with discernment and intelligence,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after the attacks in January 2015.

Around 70 percent of prisoners in France are Muslim, but it is difficult to determine which of them are radical and which are not, Alexandre Mendel, ‘Jihadist France’ author, radicalization expert told RT.

We have now 1,500 people that are considered radicalized Muslims in prisons. Should we put them out and then should we gather them in some kind of French Guantanamo? You know that the far-right movement, the Front National in France wants to create a new Caen in Vienna for them?” he added. 

In his opinion, officials won’t speak openly about radicalized people.

They will play the game; they will go to the physiatrist; they will go to a sociologist; they will attack the Muslims who shoot down planes. Actually ISIS ask their activists, their soldiers that are put in jails in France to act like normal…Muslim people and not to show they are radicalized,” Mendel said.

The problem of Islamization in prisons is going to get worse and spread to other areas, suggests French MP Nicolas Dhuicq, who is a qualified psychiatrist.

I’ve been working on these questions for the last five years and no one was listening to me previously. And now well-known politicians in France talk about it and discover the truth. It is too late. Most of our prisons have this problem of Islamism inside prison. The main problem is that what you see within prisons and hospitals is the future –10 years ahead,” he told RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.