More Canadians have been imprisoned on terrorism-related crimes in the past 18 months than used to face such charges over decades. Since October, 2008, 14 Canadians have been found guilty of terror-related acts. Some, like Momin Khawaja, Said Namouh, and Zakaria Amara are likely to spend decades behind bars. If, during that time, they convince even one other inmate to adopt their violent ideology, would their original convictions still be touted as a resounding counterterrorism success? To ensure that getting one terrorist off Canada’s streets does not inadvertently breed two others, we need a counterterrorism strategy that includes our prison policy.
Of course we must adapt U.S. and European lessons to the demographic, cultural and religious specifics of Canadian life; patterns that affect the spread of extremist ideologies within our society in general also affect prisons. But with that in mind, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) should follow the lead of its European counterparts by producing a prison guide on indicators of radicalization and establishing an extremism unit to monitor trends.
We must also deny extremists access to other inmates by a combination of containing radicals within one prison facility, segregating them from the wider population in regular prisons (and from one another) and displacing them frequently within the system. But we must also be alert to convicts who turn away from a terrorist past, because they can help combat the spread of radical ideas to other inmates. It requires a sophisticated understanding of our terrorist prison population and detailed assessments of each inmate.