BOSTON - Six inmates at MCI Norfolk are facing discipline after a probe into information that some convicts at the prison’s Muslim chapel were preaching jihad speeches by a former Al Qaeda recruiter, FOX25 Investigates has learned.
FOX25 confirmed a report that inmates used recordings from Al Qaeda recruiter and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed years ago in a drone strike, to preach jihad to others at the state prison.
The state Department of Correction has confirmed six inmates who attended the prison’s Muslim chapel are facing discipline for setting up a structure of power over other inmates, requiring uniforms and demanding contracts of allegiance.
Martin Horn, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who once led New York City’s prison system and set up an intelligence center on Rikers Island, said law enforcement officials need to look at more than just the jihad preaching.
“You want to begin to look at, for example, their phone calls. You want to look at the records of who's sending money to their account,” Horn told FOX25 Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen via Skype. “If one were going to try to recruit individuals to engage in the kinds of terrorist activities that most concern us, what better place to look for recruits than inside a prison?”
In a statement to FOX25, the state Department of Correction said, “It was determined that the ‘jihad’ that was being preached was in the context of personal spiritual struggle with regard to oneself, as opposed to a war against non-believers.”
A DOC spokesman said there is “no evidence that their unauthorized activities were being used as a recruiting tool for any extremist ideology.”
But Horn also says there’s good reason to investigate.
“Well, look, first of all, prisoners come out. Eventually, they're all coming out to the community,” Horn told FOX25 Investigates. “And we know from several experiences that, often times, they can influence activities that occur on the outside.”
The Department of Correction confirms it consulted with federal law enforcement on the investigation but told FOX25 Investigates it found nothing illegal.
The six medium-security inmates, who have not been identified, are still facing discipline because prison rules forbid setting up any kind of hierarchy – like a gang – regardless of religion.
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