World

Imprisoning Extremists Together Sparks Controversy

| by Nicholas Roberts
Inside a French prisonInside a French prison

France has launched a new program in its prisons to combat Islamic extremism among inmates.

The plan was originally proposed in February 2015, New Europe reports.

The program is being carried out in five prisons initially, according to MWC News. It aims to separate "radicalized" prisoners from other prisoners.

It consists of a six-month intensive program where radicalized Muslims learn general knowledge and take workshops held by victims of terrorism, former jihadists, psychologists and political commentators.

Even among the "radicalized" prisoners, there will be some segregation between those who are "becoming radicalized" and those who are already considered "radicalized."

Fresnes is one of the first prisons in France to implement the new program.

"It's important because it's the first prison to have areas reserved for radicalized detainees," Socialist Party MP Francoise Descamp-Crosnier said, according to MWC News.

"That's been the starting point for the other prisons that have also introduced this type of [program]."

The program has not been without controversy. One inmate described the dedicated areas for extremists as a "French Guantanamo."

The lack of prison imams is a real issue for a lot of the inmates, explained Yannis Warrach, who offers religious guidance to Muslim prisoners. Imams are worship leaders for Sunni Muslims.

"We have a situation where inmates are left to their own devices," Warrach said.

"If there's no imam available, either because he is not there much or because there isn't one in the prison, they will instead rely on other inmates, who very often have a very, very fundamentalist understanding of Islam."

Members of the prison officers' union said the government needs to increase funding in order for the program to be effective.

"The fact that we are grouping them together and allowing them to be together, I find that actually quite dangerous," union spokesman Yoan Karar said.

"What needs to be understood is that Fresnes is a prison for those awaiting trial, so once they've been sentenced, they'll be sent out to other prisons."

The French government is reportedly also trying to establish a new "deradicalization center" for Muslim extremists sometime in the summer, New Europe reports.

Sources: MWC News, New Europe / Photo Credit: PressTV, Lionel Allorge/Wikipedia

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