Linking Prisoner Radicalization and Terrorism: The JIS Case

Sidebar to the article Prisoner Radicalization: Assessing the Threat in U.S. Correctional Institutions by Mark S. Hamm, Ph.D.

JIS recruitment strategy: Tradional American Islam to Pious Prison Islam to Prison Gang to Street Gang to International Jihad Mo

JIS Recruitment Strategy

NIJ image (see reuse policy).

The link between prisoner radicalization and terrorism can be seen in the JIS case, particularly in the way the group recruited and operated. JIS began with a traditional form of American Islam (Nation of Islam). This was used to create an alternative religious vision expressed in a pious but mutating form of Sunni-inspired "Prison Islam," which encompasses gang values and fierce intra-group loyalties based on "cut-and-paste" interpretations of the Koran.[1] This vision provided JIS members with identity, meaning and a form of collective resistance.

So powerful was the attachment to this form of Prison Islam that two JIS devotees — members of rival gangs — were able to overcome past grievances, thus fusing JIS's spiritual identity to its gang history. While on parole, one of the devotees took the group's terrorist plot to the community and turned to a street gang for firearms. Additional members were recruited from the international jihad movement inspired by the war in Iraq. All the while, the JIS plot continued to be directed by its charismatic leader, who remained incarcerated in maximum-security custody.


[note 1]Knox, G.W., "Melanics: A Gang Profile Analysis," Journal of Gang Research 9 (2002): 1-76.

Date Created: October 27, 2008