Government needs to keep closer tabs on rogue jailhouse clerics, experts say

Jun 16, 2011 Issues: Domestic Radicalization / Radicalization Hearings

Thursday, June 16th 2011

WASHINGTON - Prisons will keep turning some crooks into jihadists unless the government keeps closer tabs on rogue jailhouse clerics, experts told lawmakers on Wednesday.

At a second fiery hearing on Islamic extremism, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-L.I.) cited plots involving ex-cons converted to twisted versions of the faith, dubbed "prislam."

King cited Brooklyn native and wanna-be dirty-bomber Jose Padilla, and James Cromitie, who awaits sentencing for conspiring to bomb a Bronx synagogue.

Lax oversight of prison clerics tempts fate, said Patrick Dunleavy, formerly of the New York State corrections agency. He cited the case of imam Zulquarnain Abdu Shahid, a convicted murderer arrested again in 2010 for trying to smuggle box-cutter blades onto Rikers Island.

Democrats slammed King in a repeat of the first hearing in March, alleging his focus on one religion is discriminatory.

King remained defiant, noting Democrats did not hold hearings on right-wing extremism during their majority from 2007 until this year.

Dunleavy called for the establishment of national standards governing qualifications for jailhouse clerics, and minimum ratios of chaplains to worshipers in prison.