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New York prison official says radical Islam infiltrating American jails

June 16, 2011 - New York

A former New York prisons official has testified that radical Muslims have made "sustained efforts" to indoctrinate inmates in America, at the second hearing on Islamic radicalization held by Representative Peter King.

The first round of King's hearings on domestic threats in March drew passionate protests, and the hearing Wednesday on radicalization in U.S. prisons drew similar objections.

Patrick Dunleavy, a retired official in the New York State Department of Correctional Services, said radical Muslims have been trying to convert U.S. inmates to their cause for decades.

"Despite appearances, prison walls are porous," he said. "Individuals and groups that subscribe to radical Islamic ideology have made sustained efforts to target inmates for indoctrination," he said.

Kevin Smith, former federal prosecutor in California, cited the case of Kevin James and Levar Washington, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to "conspiracy to levy war against the United States through terrorism."

Smith called it a "seditious conspiracy" hatched inside California's prison system.

Michael Downing, a top official in the Los Angeles Police Department, described the conversions as a "phenomena of low volume," but one that holds "high consequence" considering the sheer size of the U.S. prison population.

"We do have a problem," he said. "Prisons are communities at risk."

Fox News earlier quoted Representative Bennie Thompson (Democrat-Miss)., the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, as saying at the opening of the hearing that the threat of terrorism from U.S. converts in prison is "small."

"There are other threats to be concerned about," Thompson said.

Representative Laura Richardson (Democrat-California) suggested the hearing was "racist," asking why Muslims in prisons are being targeted as opposed to other religious or ethnic minorities.

Members of several New York organizations that protested the first hearings were back for the second round, saying the hearings play on stereotypes of both Muslims and prisoners. A coalition of civil rights, religious and interfaith groups met on New York's Long Island Tuesday.

The protesters included an imam who works as a chaplain in a county jail on Long Island. He says he has seen no evidence of terrorist recruitment at the jail.


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