Prisons are an essential organ in the criminal justice system of the United States of America. Prisons serve the purpose of reforming, rehabilitating and keeping the offenders away from the society so as not only to protect the society but also protect the offenders from an angry society that is tempted to take the law into their hands.
There are a number of challenges that the United States prison system faces especially with the inclusion of imprisoned terrorists. It is imperative to consider whether terrorists can be reformed and rehabilitated and thus fit for prison. Arguments have been advanced to the extent that terrorists being human, they ought to enjoy all human rights like other normal offenders. Psychologists have argued that terrorists do not start engaging in terrorism from a vacuum. Some of them think of themselves as being prisoners of war or soldiers in a divine war. This false belief easily lends them into influencing others into their activities.
The biggest concern in imprisoning terrorists perhaps lies in the inmate radicalization. With the imprisonment of terrorists, the latter inculcate in other inmates the radical Islamic beliefs and practices and as such spread their network and recruit inmates into their terror groups; to think like them and act like them. In the year 2011, the director of the Counterterrorism Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, in his report to the United States Congress, admitted that terrorist recruitment was a major problem in the correctional facilities.
The FBI together with other federal agencies made recommendations to the Federal Bureau of prisons in the year 2004. Top on the list of recommendations was the introduction of Correctional Intelligence Initiative intended to monitor, screen and closely supervise the delivery of Muslim religious service providers. Despite the fact that this recommendation was made in the year 2004, the Bureau had started the initiative in the year 2003. The program, dubbed as the CII, involved improving the collection of intelligence within the correctional facilities, the detection, prevention and disruption of any radicalization and/or recruitment processes in the correctional facilities and the training of a task force to deal with intelligence matters within the correctional facilities.
Prisons and jails usually host different persons who have committed various offenses. Some have murdered, raped, others having committed robbery with violence, among other crimes. The only common factor is that they all have a propensity to commit crimes and if they ‘poisoned’ they could easily be recruited by terrorists who often work against the state, the common enemy. Therefore, when a terrorist is imprisoned in America, the prison officials ought to closely monitor him or her and ensure that only essential contact with the other prisoners is allowed; such a prisoner should in most cases be kept in solitary confinement.
The Constitution of the United States of America guarantees an imprisoned terrorist his First Amendment rights, Fifth Amendment Rights and the Sixth Amendment rights. Despite the fact that the United States Constitution confers upon the imprisoned terrorist these rights, some of the same shall be enjoyed to a certain extent only. For example, the imprisoned person’s right conferred by the First Amendment rights would be limited to the extent that the prisoner would not be permitted to associate with others without due scrutiny. In the interest of the rights of all the citizens, it is necessary to limit such rights and to deny the imprisoned terrorists some rights including the Fourth Amendment rights.
As highlighted earlier in this submission, there have been a lot of changes in the correctional policies because of terrorism. When the alarm was raised in the year 2001 by the director of the Counterterrorism unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigations that the prisons and other correctional facilities had become incubators for hutching new terrorists, a number of policy changes had to be made. For example, before the September 2001 terror attacks there were no Correctional Intelligence Initiatives; these were only introduced in the year 2003 by the Federal Bureau of prisons.
The major risk involved in the incarceration of terrorists in American prisons is the fact that latter take a radical approach to their religion, predominantly Islam and may impart the same on other prisoners, ‘who have nothing to lose,’ end up recruiting members into their terror gangs.
Secondly, correctional facilities become targets for terror attacks and this is perhaps attested by the 21st of December 1996 incident in which three letter bombs were sent to the penitentiary at Leavenworth from Egypt.
The advantage of incarcerating domestic terrorists in supermax correctional facilities is that the state gets to preserve the rights of the terrorists giving them a chance to reform and serving the country in more productive ways, even though while behind bars. In addition, it deters other persons who may have intended to engage in terror acts. The disadvantage would be that the correctional facilities’ officers have to be more careful so as to ensure that terrorists do not increase through internal recruitment.
The future challenges in the correction system with regards to incarceration of domestic terrorists perhaps lies in the latter’s accumulation which may overwhelm the facilities and the personnel in terms of regulation and supervision. The pressure that would result from a high number of domestic terrorists being incarcerated in the correctional facilities would make prison radicalization inevitable and that may pose a great challenge to the correction system.
Art, R. J., & Richardson, L. (2007). Democracy and Counterterrorism: Lessons from the the Past. New York: US Institute of Peace Press.
Precht, T. (2007). Homegrown Terrorism and Islamist Radicalization in Europe: From Conversion to Terrorism. Ministry of Justice .
Westphal, S. (2009). Counterterrorism: Policy of Preemptive Action. Washington: USAWC Strategy Research. Retrieved from http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/army-usawc/westphal.pdf