Countering Jihadi Prison Radicalization in Germany and the U.S.

What, if anything, is being done in Germany or the United States to assess or address the issue of Jihadi prison radicalization? Prison radicalization moved to the top of Western policy agendas after the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks in France: Two of the attackers had met in prison, where one became radicalized and the other intensified his violent Jihadi beliefs. How much of a threat does Jihadi prison radicalization pose in Germany and the United States; what is being done to prevent radicalization and/or help deradicalize those who have embraced violent thoughts and/or actions?

A review of Jihadi prison radicalization and countermeasures in both countries illustrates that not much is known yet. Data and concrete examples of prison radicalization are mostly lacking. Regardless, in view of the growing numbers of returning foreign fighters as well as the increasing number of convictions expected in connection with them, various German states have started taking action. In the U.S., scores of foreign fighters and others who have been convicted of terrorism charges do not appear to have changed the general approach to prison radicalization.

Prisons: Places of Vulnerability

It is generally agreed that radicalization involves a process, as part of which individuals embrace radical ideas and/or actions. Whether radical ideas are connected to, serve as a precursor of, or accompany all radical actions, remains contested. While there are many extremists with radical ideas, most never turn to violence or terrorism. The U.S. Department of Justice definition of prison radicalization touches on many of these aspects, defining it as “the process by which inmates adopt extreme views, including beliefs that violent measures need to be taken for political or religious purposes.”[1] Prisons are considered potential places of recruitment where individuals are more vulnerable to radical thoughts and actions, for example, of the Jihadi kind.[2] A prison sentence marks a drastic break with existing routines, familiar surroundings, and personal safety, and frequently goes hand in hand with a personal crisis and desire to take revenge or defy authorities. Religion provides a steady framework when faced with these existential challenges.[3] Religious communities offer a way out of isolation as well as new social networks, and may afford important physical protection against other prisoners.[4] By the same token, prisoners are considered vulnerable to extremist approaches, especially when left at the mercy of radical inmates or self-appointed religious leaders.

Two of the January 2015 Paris attackers, Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, met in prison. While Coulibaly became radicalized in prison, Kouachi, serving a sentence for attempted travel to a terrorist camp, further hardened his Jihadi convictions behind bars. Mohamed Merah, who killed seven people during a 2012 shooting spree in France, also became radicalized behind bars. Mehdi Nemmouche, accused of murdering four people in Brussels in May 2014, was radicalized when serving a five-year sentence for robbery. In fact, the Brussels attacks marked the turning point for various German states to look into prison radicalization and the adoption or expansion of several hard security (involving prisoner surveillance and segregation) and soft assistance (including Muslim chaplain services, prison deradicalization, and post-prison care) measures.


In the Federal Republic of Germany, the sixteen states are in charge of prisons. While German foreign fighters have left for Syria and Iraq from across Germany, some states appear more affected than others with regard to Jihadi radicalization, if only because of their larger size. Quantitative and qualitative assessments of prison radicalization are lacking; while there is little evidence or concrete examples of Jihadists who have become radicalized through other inmates or Islamist imams while in prison, states like Berlin have noted an increase in conspicuous dress and behavior since 2014. Below, six German states are examined.  Among them are Germany’s five most populous states[5] as well as the three Salafist[6] hubs Hesse, North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), and Berlin, all three of which experienced significant departures for Syria and Iraq.

Lower Saxony

As of March 2016, four individuals convicted of membership in foreign terrorist organizations were held in Lower Saxon prisons. Until 2012, Lower Saxony relied on sporadic clergy support on an as-needed basis. Since 2014, thirty-six Muslim chaplains have been available on a volunteer basis; they also receive a small honorarium from the state government.[7] Lower Saxony is different from most other states in the sense that the state signed a contract with various Muslim organizations in 2012, in an effort to professionalize and institutionalize public services for Muslims. The contracting Muslim associations are responsible for the selection and training of prison imams; one of the future goals includes full-time employment of Muslim prison clergy.[8] On 1 March 2016, Lower Saxony started a new program designed to prevent prison radicalization. The program is geared toward both inmates and prison personnel. Inmates who either conducted Jihadi crimes in the past or appear to be developing these tendencies will be scrutinized and supervised by radicalization experts. Prison personnel have received additional schooling on the identification and treatment of Islamist prisoners, and they will work together and consult with the radicalization specialists. This kind of assistance and supervision might also continue after prisoners have been released.[9] Furthermore, prison authorities are in contact with the domestic intelligence service of Lower Saxony for additional information and guidance.


At the end of 2015, Berlin prisons had a total of twenty-four Islamist inmates. They were kept separate from one another so they could not engage in group polarization (a process that refers to individuals adopting more extreme views as a result of group discussions and groupthink). Prison personnel are continually checking for symptoms of radicalization. Without citing concrete numbers, Berlin prison authorities reportedly noticed a significant increase in conspicuous behavior and/or dress code in 2014.[10] In early 2015, six imams were available to provide religious guidance to Muslim inmates, which constitute 15 to 20 percent of roughly 4,000 inmates in Berlin prisons. Upon their release from prison, individuals still receive post-prison assistance for six months, in order to help their re-entry into society and to prevent them from falling prey to Islamist radicalization.[11] The Salafist organization “Ansarul-Aseer” (Supporter of Prisoners) specifically targets prisoners, collecting donations for them, contacting them by mail, and visiting them in person.[12] In a much-publicized case, some well-known Salafists were waiting outside the prison gates to welcome Riza Y. into their network, offering community support, recruiting him for the dissemination of propaganda materials, and ensuring regular contact with radical preachers; Riza left for Syria less than two years later.[13] The kind of after-prison care Berlin has adopted only exists in four states; apart from Berlin, the states of Brandenburg, Hessen and Saxony also tend to released Salafists in an effort to reintegrate them into society. The Violence Prevention Network (VPN), a Berlin-based NGO that started working with Islamist extremists in 2007, refers to this as stabilization coaching, which involves regular meetings, guidance, and phone counselling, also in tandem with relatives.[14] The VPN further offers courses with both group meetings and individual discussions in Berlin prisons. These are designed to deconstruct rigid worldviews by offering alternatives and undermining black and white perspectives, in an effort to facilitate deradicalization.[15]

Baden-Württemberg (BW)

In BW, Muslims make up 20 percent of roughly 6,600 prison inmates. In 2015, four prisoners were considered radical Islamists. They were under special surveillance and could also be held in isolation in case of radicalizing tendencies toward other prisoners. Prison employees have been educated about radicalization risks and indicators, as informed by the domestic intelligence service of BW, and they are supported by experts slated to detect extremist behavior, networks, and gangs.[16] Various BW prisons have hired imams, which may also be subject to background checks by the domestic intelligence agency. Imam arrangements are on a volunteer basis and organized and paid by Muslim organizations or the Turkish government. The state of BW has been looking to boost Muslim chaplain services, as prison imams are underrepresented: While there are twenty-four full-time prison chaplains for Protestant and Catholic inmates across the seventeen BW prisons, Muslim clergy are only available on an hourly volunteer basis.[17]

North Rhine Westphalia

Thirty of thirty-seven prison facilities in NRW offer chaplain services for Muslim inmates. Roughly 20 percent of NRW’s prison population (15,750) was estimated to be Muslim as of early 2015.[18] However, compared to the ninety full-time Catholic and Protestant chaplains who are paid by the state of NRW, the 120 imams volunteer their time to assist inmates, often only on a monthly basis.[19] The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), one of the largest Islamic organizations in Germany, has been supplying prison volunteers for many years; however, the DITIB answers to the Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs, and imams are sent directly from Turkey to Germany for four years at a time. Most of them do not know any German and can only offer prayer services in Turkish. They are paid by the Turkish government, and, according to the NRW justice minister, must be considered trustworthy—as Turkish government employees, they do not have an interest in supporting or spreading Salafism. As of March 2015, twenty-five NRW prisoners were held on Islamist terrorism-related charges; twenty of whom were kept separate from their fellow Salafists (several were also subject to mail surveillance and visit bans); three others were kept in isolation and therefore prevented from interacting with all other inmates.[20] The domestic intelligence service of NRW works together with prison facilities, for example, by offering seminars about Salafist radicalization and by vetting all imam applicants for extremist backgrounds. Three were thus prevented from starting at Bonn prison. Prison employees have been trained to identify extremist tendencies among inmates. In addition, the state of NRW considers hiring more prison guards and employees with Turkish and Arab immigrant backgrounds, in order to take advantage of their cultural and linguistic capabilities, which are considered useful for detecting radicalization at an early stage.[21]


Twenty percent of Hesse’s prison population is considered to be of Muslim faith, which translates into roughly 1,000 inmates. Until recently, only eleven of seventeen prison facilities offered monthly imam services.[22] However, in 2015 the budget for Muslim prison chaplains was doubled (to €110,000), indicating an effort to increase clergy services. Furthermore, the state of Hesse relies on so-called structural observers—specialists who have been schooled to collect information on potential radicalization cases—who work closely together with prison leadership and chaplains.[23]  Prison employees are regularly briefed by Hesse’s domestic intelligence service. Hesse is further unique among the sixteen German states because in 2015 it invested €400,000 in a full-fledged counter- and deradicalization program, the “prevention network against Salafism,” which also includes the aforementioned VPN prison services. What explains Hesse’s overall investment? Compared to other German states, the number of Salafists in Hesse is disproportionally high. More than 20 percent of the 7,500 Salafists who reside in Germany live in Hesse, almost as many as in the most populous state of NRW with a population three times the size of Hesse.[24]


Prisons have been working together with the Bavarian domestic intelligence service for more than a decade, helping to identify Jihadist readings, propaganda, and detect radicalization. Bavarian prisons count about 1,400 Muslim inmates; every eighth inmate is Muslim. Muslim prisoners are assisted by twenty-six imams, who serve on a volunteer basis.[25] According to the domestic intelligence service, more imams are needed to counter the Salafist narrative; in addition, so the service chief argues, prisoners should be assisted after their release.[26] There is significant interest in recruiting more German-speaking clergy.[27] All of this is supposed to be facilitated by the “network against Salafism,” a newly created coordination point which brings together justice, security, education, and social government agencies in an effort to prevent and/or undo Salafist radicalization.[28]

Summing up, prison counter- and deradicalization efforts differ across Germany. By implication, nation-wide cooperation and coordination among German states, to share best practices or formulate new measures, are lacking. While the standing Conference of Interior Ministers has discussed the issue of prison radicalization, a federal-state working group that was supposed to be led by the state of NRW has yet to materialize.[29]

Deradicalization programs do not exist at the federal level but only in select states; they are mostly limited to the work of the Violence Prevention Network. As part its three-phase program, VPN social workers, psychologists, and pedagogues look after Salafist inmates in an attempt to deradicalize young people in prison.[30] The program is the longest-running one in Germany. It started in 2001, with a focus on right-wing radicals, and was expanded in 2007 to also include radical Salafists. According to evaluation results, it has been successful in the sense that it has significantly reduced the number of re-imprisonment rates. While it used to operate nationwide, the VPN has been limiting its work to Berlin, Hesse, and, more recently, Lower Saxony, Bavaria, and Baden-Württemberg, after European Union funding was terminated in 2014.[31]

Many of the security-focused measures discussed above assume that prisoners can indeed be segregated from fellow Salafists or kept in isolation from the rest of the prison population, as well as identified during their radicalization process. In terms of radicalization indicators, many of the prisons rely on a list put together by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the federal attorney general (GBA): Indicators includes recruitment for terrorist group; glorification of terrorist acts or suicide attacks; conspicuous looks or behavior; use of Islamist posters or symbols, propaganda materials, videos, or social media entries.[32]  However, recent French experiences indicate that it is often not possible to detect radicalization, due to taqiya tactics, the practice of concealing one’s faith to avoid detection by the authorities. In the case of Berlin’s Riza Y., prison authorities confirmed that Riza was completely inconspicuous, perhaps with the exception of his decision to grow a long beard.[33] In addition, the physical restraints of prison settings often make it impossible to isolate prisoners.[34] In France, Djamel Beghal, viewed as influential in the radicalization of the January 2015 attackers, was held in solitary confinement between March 2003 and 2006, when he first met Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly. At least one German prison has gone on record saying that physical isolation remains impossible.

Similar to discussions in the United States, it is still being debated how much of a role Muslim clergy can play with regard to preventing or countering radicalization. In any event, in terms of hiring more prison imams or institutionalizing their positions, progress remains slow. Nation-wide there are two full-time imams.[35] Whenever prison imams are available they are typically referred by Muslim organizations, often the Turkish-Islamic Union (DITIB), or the Turkish consulate. That means most Muslim prison chaplains do not speak German, do not know the culture German inmates grew up in or German Salafism; apart from scripted prayer sessions, they cannot provide additional spiritual guidance. A few individuals have posed security concerns, for example in Hesse and Saxony, and the state of Berlin had to end cooperation with a Muslim group; vetting remains imperative.[36] Most imams serve on a volunteer basis, or are paid only small honorariums. A lot of this has to do with the fact that Germany has not recognized any Muslim organizations as corporations under public law, the status afforded to other official religious communities, mostly because existing Muslim organizations lack “clear structures of organization including transparent procedures for decision-making and a reliable body or bodies which authentically decide about doctrine and order.”[37] In other words, Muslim organizations lack the hierarchical structures of other religious institutions, such as Christian churches, so it is almost impossible to agree on a Muslim chaplain curriculum or to identify a common organization that can represent all Muslims. In addition, most German states do not offer imam training or university degrees for imams “made in Germany.” Institutionalization is also suffering from lack of funding. The federal budget allocates €170,000 for Muslim prison chaplains, while providing €12 million for Christian chaplains. Some states have increased their budgets for Muslim prison chaplains, however, most notably Hesse.[38]

The United States

In the United States, the extent of violent Salafist preaching and radicalization behind bars is also not clear. In other words, it is impossible to say how many prison inmates are actively engaged in radicalizing others or how many prisoners have become radicalized while incarcerated.[39] While it is also not known how many Jihadi terrorists are currently held in U.S. prisons, some 250 individuals have been convicted for “involvement in homegrown violent jihadist plots”[40] since 9/11. As of November 2015, seventy-one individuals were imprisoned or arrested on ISIL-related charges.[41]

Thus far, only a few Jihadists have been released from U.S. prisons; none have been arrested in relation to new violent extremism. However, more than 100 inmates with terrorism links are scheduled for release from federal prisons in the next five years.[42] Re-entry provisions, designed to help reintegrate released prisoners into society and considered important for preventing radicalization by some, are usually lacking in the United States.[43]

The issue of Jihadi prisoner radicalization drew nation-wide attention starting in 2005, when Kevin James and his Jamiyyat Ul-Ismal Is-Saheeh network were arrested for plotting to attack various sites in Los Angeles, California.  Members of the group had become radicalized in prison.[44] In fact, James formed the Jihadist movement in the California state prison system in 1997 and managed to recruit various inmates who upon their release were willing to engage in violent actions. Many consider this the only concrete case of Jihadi prison radicalization in the United States. Two large-scale studies, a 2005 national assessment and a 2009 examination of Texas, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania correctional facilities, did not find any indication of prisoner radicalization.[45]

However, there have been several other instances where radicalization processes may have started in prison or upon the release of prisoners; in the meantime, critics assert that any violent behavior started long after they left prison.[46] Oftentimes it is difficult to pinpoint when individuals first became radicalized. For example, Michael Finton converted to Islam while serving in prison from 1999 to 2005. Four years after his release he was arrested in 2009 on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.[47] In 2009, the Newburgh Four were arrested in a controversial sting operation and later convicted on terrorist conspiracy charges; all four members of the group converted to Islam in prison and, according to some, also developed extremist tendencies while incarcerated.[48] According to a somewhat contentious 2010 Senate Committee report, “U.S. law enforcement authorities … believe that as many as three dozen U.S. citizens who converted to Islam while in prison have traveled to Yemen, possibly for Al Qaeda training.”[49] In 2014, Alton Nolten was arrested for allegedly beheading a former co-worker while yelling Islamist slogans. Nolten converted to Islam while serving a prison sentence for battery charges in 2010. According to Mark Hamm, a professor of criminology at Indiana State University who has researched prison radicalization extensively, a total of twenty prison inmates who converted to Islam since 9/11 were involved in terrorism; fourteen managed to execute attacks.[50] One of them was Farah Mohammed Beledi, who became radicalized in a Minnesota prison in 2009. Upon his release he joined the al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia and committed a suicide bombing in 2011.[51] Others also became radicalized in prison or else upon their release; the mean lag time between their prison release and terrorism offense was 2.6 years.[52] In his 2015 testimony before Congress, Purdue University Professor Bert Useem identified twelve cases of Jihadi prison radicalization since 9/11.[53]

Concerns about radical clerics gaining access to correctional facilities have been raised since 9/11.[54] According to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for example, radical clerics offered religious services to inmates at Maryland and New York State prisons.[55] Others have pointed to the select efforts of state correctional facilities to improve the screening and supervision of Muslim clergy, while also noting “the uncertainty is the uniformity of these improved strategies nationwide.”[56] Current data on Muslim chaplains is not easily available; however, their overall numbers have been affected by a “de-facto hiring freeze” at the federal level and other policies that have prevented Muslim leaders from entering prisons. The hiring freeze has been in effect since shortly after 9/11: Prisons, dependent on Muslims organizations for chaplain recommendations, no longer trusted these referrals due to terrorism allegations.[57] In the meantime, there are no common standards in religious training that allow for independent certification or an increased professionalization of Muslim chaplains. It is not surprising, therefore, that in 2004, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons noted a “critical shortage” in federal prisons (which exists when there is only one chaplain available for 700 inmates; the American Correctional Chaplain Association recommends one chaplain per 500 inmates) as there was only one Muslim chaplain responsible for 900 Muslim prisoners. The commanding officer of LAPD’s counterterrorism department in 2011 testified that California prisons provide one chaplain for every 2,000 inmates and in some Texas prisons, one for every 2,500 inmates.[58] At the state level, Muslim chaplains are the most underrepresented, compared to other religions, and Muslim prisoners thus the most underserved, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey.[59]

Others warn of political fearmongering, precisely because prison radicalization cases arguably have been rare.  An Institute for Social Policy and Understanding report further asserts that prison radicalization has “less to do with foreign influences” and foreign terrorist networks but the prisoners themselves are responsible for planning and/or implementing violent extremist activities.[60] An FBI survey of more than 2,000 prisons from 2005/2006 echoes these findings.[61] When prisoners do become radicalized, it is usually due to domestic grievances, including religious discrimination and racism. These perceptions, however, are further enhanced by policies that restrict Muslim leaders and chaplains from tending to U.S. prisoners. As Muslim services are led by prisoner-imams, “the resulting leadership gap helps extremists extend their influence among inmates,”[62] as was the case in California where “maverick” imams were involved in spreading a “fundamentally anti-American or militant picture of Islam.”[63] According to a 2012 Pew Survey of prison chaplains in all fifty states, extremism is perceived as more common among Muslim inmates than any other group, suggesting a possible correlation to the underrepresentation of Muslim chaplains.[64]

Muslim prisoners are also segregated from other inmates. Special Communication Management Units in Indiana and Illinois, designed to control all communications of prisoners as well as with the outside world, hold mostly Arab Muslims.[65] According to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), this allows the bundling of resources needed to translate, transcribe, and analyze communications that do occur. Prison staffs are trained in radicalization awareness. Information on prisoner radicalization (albeit with a focus on international terrorist inmates) is shared through the Correctional Intelligence Initiative, a program that has existed since 2003 and that connects the FBI (through the National Joint Terrorism Task Force) and the BOP, in addition to state, local, and other correctional facilities.[66]

As is well known, the United States got a late start to counterradicalization (preventing violent extremism from occurring in the first place); the more controversial deradicalization measures (designed to dispose of existing violent behavior and/or ideas) remain on the backburner. The emphasis thus far has been on engaging local Muslim communities, but there are no concrete mechanisms for deradicalization. Family-assisted federal interventions, for example, designed to discourage individuals from leaving for Syria and Iraq, have been sporadic and improvised.[67] Against this backdrop it does not come as a surprise that there are currently no prison deradicalization programs in the United States. Based on the Strategic Implementation Plan that accompanied the 2011 White House Counterradicalization Strategy, the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and National Counterterrorism Center worked with the BOP to assess how state prisons identify radicalization among inmates and share this information with other entities.[68] The plan further announced continued cooperation to improve risk awareness training, the detection of recruitment efforts, the screening of new inmates within correctional facilities, and information sharing. The status of these initiatives remains unclear.[69]


While both Germany and the United States have experienced only a few cases of radicalization, it is impossible to say how much of a threat Jihadi prison radicalization poses. The two allies also share a shortage of Muslim chaplains and a general reluctance to invest in prison deradicalization measures or post-prison reentry care. However, various German states have started preparing for a potential onslaught of Jihadi prisoners. At the very least, states with the largest numbers of foreign fighters agree that the number of imprisoned Salafists will increase soon and correctional facilities ought to be prepared for this. In March 2015, the German GBA reported on sixty-eight preliminary and criminal proceedings against 106 alleged foreign fighters who have returned from Syria, compared to eight in early 2014.[70] By December 2015, the numbers had doubled; the GBA led 135 criminal proceedings against 200 alleged foreign fighters, in addition to another 135 proceedings that were led by the states.[71]

Most German states agree that it would be prudent to hire additional prison imams—but questions about financial responsibilities and the legal status of Muslim organizations remain. In the meantime, there has been a focus on security measures, including schooling of prison personnel in detecting radicalization; increased surveillance of prisoners; vetting of imams; close cooperation with domestic intelligence services; and the segregation of Salafist prisoners from one another or the rest of prison population. Prison deradicalization measures and post-prison re-entry programs remain scarce; only six states are currently investing in this routine, which is also not supported by the federal government.

In the United States, apart from general surveillance and segregation measures, there has not been a concerted effort to counter Jihadi prison radicalization or to provide re-entry care. Surely, the numbers of U.S. foreign fighters are not as high as those in Europe. However, of seventy-one individuals who were imprisoned on ISIL-related charges as of November 2015, fifty-six were arrested in 2015 alone—the highest number of terrorism-related arrests in a single year since 2001.[72] In late 2015, the FBI counted 900 active homegrown terrorism-related investigations against mostly Islamic State-inspired operatives inside the United States.[73] If nothing else, these numbers warrant a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative analysis, if only to validate existing policies on prison radicalization. More importantly, however, numbers and facts are needed to either effectively counter fear mongering or so existing and/or future cases of radicalization related to prison experiences can be addressed and/or prevented.


Dr. Dorle Hellmuth is an Assistant Professor of Politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC and the author of Counterterrorism and the State (Penn Press, 2016). She is a Non-Resident Fellow at AICGS.  Her current research focuses on Jihadist (de)radicalization processes and measures in the United States and Europe.


[1] U.S. Department of Justice, A Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Selection of Muslim Religious Service Providers (Washington, DC: Office of the Inspector General, 2004), 6.

[2] Peter R. Neumann distinguishes between places of vulnerability and places of congregation, in Neumann, “Joining Al Qaeda: Jihadist Recruitment in Europe,” Adelphi Books (December 2008), 21. See also Mark Hamm, The Spectacular Few (New York: New York University Press, 2013).

[3] Neumann, “Joining Al Qaeda,” 25.

[4] Ibid., 26.

[5] North Rhine Westphalia, Bavaria, Baden Württemberg, Lower Saxony, Hesse (in descending order).

[6] Salafists and Jihadists share the same ideological foundation and political objectives, including the installation of sharia law and the overthrowing of the democratic state. While the majority of Salafists does not support violence, a small fraction of Salafists, the Jihadists, advocate violence in pursuit of Salafist goals.

[7] “Niedersachsen baut muslimische Gefaengnisseelsorge aus,” Die Welt, October 15, 2014.

[8] Niedersaechsischer Landtag, “Antwort auf eine kleine schriftliche Anfrage,” Drucksache 17/2143, October 7, 2014.

[9] “Programm gegen Islam-Radikalisierung im Gefaengnis gestartet,” Die Welt, February 24, 2016; “Werden Haeftlinge in Gefaengnissen zu Islamisten?” NDR, June 8, 2015.

[10] Ulrich Kraetzer, “In Gefaengnissen werden immer mehr Berliner zu Islamisten,” Berliner Morgenpost, January 21, 2015; Ulrich Kraetzer, “Heilmann will bessere Seelsorge fuer Muslime im Gefaengnis,” Berliner Morgenpost, February 13, 2015; Thorkit Treichel, “Betreuung muslimischer Gefaengnisinsassen,” Berliner Zeitung, February 12, 2015.

[11] “Wachsende Gefahr durch Islamisten im Knast,” Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, November 25, 2015.

[12] Mira Gajevic and Timur Tinc, “Zu wenig Praevention,” Frankfurter Rundschau, January 19, 2015.

[13] “Schoener kann man sich nicht fuehlen” – Die Geschichte einer Radikalisierung,” Erasmus Monitor, March 24, 2015, (June 1, 2016).

[14] Violence Prevention Network, “Taking Responsibility: Breaking away from Hate and Violence,” 2015, (June 1, 2016).

[15] Thomas Klatt, “Gegen die Radikalisierung im Knast,” Deutschlandfunk, February 13, 2015.

[16] Roland Mueller, “Land will islamistische Hasspredigten hinter Gittern verhindern,” Südwest Presse, May 7, 2015; “Radikalisierung im Gefaengnis: Werden in Karlsruhe Islamisten angeworben?”, March 13, 2015.

[17] “Gefahr der Radikalisierung,” Südwest Presse, March 25, 2015.

[18] “Gefaengnis-Imame sollen Radikalisierung verhindern,” Die Welt, March 2, 2015.

[19] Reiner Burger, “Mit Allah hinter Gittern,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 23, 2015.

[20] Achim Beer, “Wir NRW Radikalisierung im Gefaengnis verhindern will,” Der Westen, January 29, 2015.

[21] “Radikalisierung von Haeftlinen im Gefaengnis verhindern,”, March 5, 2015; Rainer Kellers, “Wenn der Mithaeftling ein Salafist ist,” WDR Nachrichten, May 11, 2015.

[22] Christoph Cuntz, “In Hessens Gefaengnissen sind zwar viele Pfarrer, aber nur wenige Islame taetig,” Wiesbadener Kurier, December 18, 2014.

[23] Sebastian Christ, “An diesem Ort in Deutschland werden die meisten Islamisten radikalisiert,” Huffington Post, January 21, 2016.

[24] Ewald Hetrodt, “Hochburg der Salafisten,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, August 1, 2015

[25] Tina Wenzel, “Muslimische Seelsorge im Gefaengnis,” Bayern 2 Radio, August 19, 2015.

[26] Lisa Schnell, “Muslimische Seelsorge in Gefaengnissen: Gegen den Irrglauben,” Spiegel Online, April 13, 2015.

[27] “Bayern will mehr muslimische Seelsorger in den Gefaengnissen,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 16, 2015.

[28] Rudolf Erhard und Joseph Röhmel, “Programm gegen salafistische Sozialarbeiter,” BR24, November 23, 2015.

[29] “Radikalisierung von Haeftlinen im Gefaengnis verhindern,”, March 5, 2015.

[30] Violence Prevention Network, “Taking Responsibility.”

[31] Mira Gajevic and Timur Tinc, “Zu wenig Praevention,” Frankfurter Rundschau, January 19, 2015; “Radikalisierung im Knast,” Deutsche Welle, March 25, 2016.

[32] Senatsverwaltung für Justiz und Verbraucherschutz, “Antwort of the schriftliche Anfrage Nr. 17/15444 vom 29. Januar 2015 über Religiöse oder Islamische Radikalisierung in Berliner Gefängnissen?”  see also, Niedersaechsischer Landtag, 2; 4.

[33] “Schöner kann man sich nicht fühlen.”

[34] Rainer Kellers, “Wenn der Mithäftling ein Salafist ist,” WDR Nachrichten, May 11, 2015.

[35] Wenzel, “Muslimische Seelsorge.”

[36] Lisa Schnell, “Vom Knast in den Dschihad,” Der Spiegel, 2014.

[37] Mathias Rohe, “Muslim Immigration and Integration: A German Legal Perspective,” AICGS German-American Issues 13 (Washington, DC: American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, 2010), 59.

[38] “Land will Ausbau der muslimischen Gefängnisseelsorge,” Stuttgarter Nachrichten, July 2, 2015.

[39] See also House Homeland Security Committee, Hearing on Terror Inmates: Countering Violent Extremism in Prison and Beyond, October 28, 2015, testimony by Jerome Bjelopera.

[40] Ibid., 4.

[41] Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes, “ISIS in America,” The George Washington University (December 2015), 4.

[42] House Homeland Security Committee Hearing, “Opening Statement,” Peter King, October 28, 2015.

[43] SpearIt, “Facts and Fictions About Islam in Prisons,” Institute of Social Policy and Understanding (2013), 40.

[44] See “Out of the Shadows: Getting Ahead of Prisoner Radicalization,” The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute and The University of Virginia Critical Incident Analysis Group (2006); Mark Hamm, “Prisoner Radicalization: Assessing the Threat in U.S. Correctional Institutions,” National Institute of Justice Journal, 261 (October 2008).

[45] Hamm, Spectacular Few, 49.

[46] See also “Facts and Fictions,” 30.

[47] “Al Qaeda in Yemen and Somalia: A Ticking Time Bomb,” A Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate, January 21, 2010, 4; 9; hereafter referred to as Senate report.

[48] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “America’s Academies for Jihad,” Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2015.

[49] Senate report, 4.

[50] Hamm, Spectacular Few, 60; 77. Hamm’s count also includes Guantanamo inmates.

[51] Ibid., 74.

[52] Ibid., 79.

[53] House Homeland Security Committee, Hearing on the Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons, June 15, 2011, testimony by Bert Useem.

[54] Ibid., testimony by Patrick Dunleavy.

[55] Paul Barrett, “How a Muslim Chaplain Spread Extremism to an Inmate Flock,” Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2003; Hirsi Ali, “Academies for Jihad.”

[56] Homeland Security Committee, testimony by Bert Useem, 4.

[57] “Facts and Fictions,” 23; 39.

[58] Homeland Security Committee, Hearing on U.S. Prisons, testimony by Michael Downing.

[59] “Religion in Prisons – A 50-state Survey of Prison Chaplains,” Pew Research Center, March 22, 2012, (June 1, 2016).

[60] “Facts and Fictions,” 6.

[61] Hamm, Spectacular Few, 52.

[62] “Facts and Fictions,” 22.

[63] Ibid., 24.

[64] Ibid., 26.

[65] Hamm, Spectacular Few, 164.

[66] Office of the Inspector General, “The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Mail for High-Risk Inmates,” Evaluation and Inspections Report I 2006-009, September 2006.

[67] Dorle Hellmuth, “Countering Jihadi Radicals and Foreign Fighters in the United States and France: Très Similaire,” Journal of Deradicalization (October 2015). For example, in July 2015, the FBI’s Denver field office worked with religious leaders and parents to prevent a Colorado teenager from joining ISIS. In January 2015, a Minnesota judge decided to send a teenager who attempted to join ISIS to a halfway house during his sentencing phase. The same judge has just launched the first deradicalization program in the United States, Jacob Gershman, “Judge Orders Terror Convicts to Undergo Experimental Deradicalization Review,” Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2016, (June 1, 2016).

[68] Executive Office of the President of the United States, Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States (December 2011), 13-14.

[69] Homeland Security Committee, testimony by Jerome Bjelopera, 6.

[70] Wolfgang Janisch, “Haftbefehle im Wochentakt,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, March 18, 2015.

[71] “Generalbundesanwalt führt 135 Verfahren gegen 200 Syrien Kämpfer,” Die Zeit, December 9, 2015.

[72] Vidino and Hughes, “ISIS in America,” 4; 6.

[73] Kevin Johnson, “Comey: Feds have roughly 900 domestic probes about Islamic State operatives, other extremists,” USA Today, October 23, 2015.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

Dorle Hellmuth

The Catholic University of America

Dr. Hellmuth is Associate Professor of Politics at The Catholic University of America and serves as the academic director of the politics department’s parliamentary internship programs in Europe. Her book, Counterterrorism and the State (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), analyzes post-911 counterterrorism decision-making and responses in the United States, Germany, Great Britain, and France. Professor Hellmuth has briefed members of parliament, law enforcement, and government representatives on counterterrorism, national security, and defense issues. She is a non-resident fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies and serves as a fellow at the German Institute on Radicalization and De-Radicalization Studies (GIRDS). Her research and teaching covers world politics, particularly the study of transatlantic security, counterterrorism, counterradicalization, homeland security, European and general comparative politics, and American foreign policy. Professor Hellmuth has held appointments as Assistant Professor at American University’s School of International Service and as a Research Fellow at the National War College, National Defense University. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from the Earhart Foundation, the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, the Embassy of France, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

She is a 2016-2017 participant in AICGS’ project “A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation: Global Responsibility, Joint Engagement,” sponsored by the Transatlantik-Programm der Bundesrepublik Deutschland aus Mitteln des European Recovery Program (ERP) des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi).