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“The whole attitude to radicalisation is outdated,” he said. “Those who become radicals are precisely those who do not show it. It happens without any kind of external signs like growing one’s beard.”
Another hurdle is that France’s internal prison intelligence unit, known as EMS-3, has no judicial power, complicating moves to share information with the DCRI domestic security service.
“We send up a lot of pieces of information when we spot them except there’s not enough information coming down to us from the DCRI,” said Jimmy Delliste, director of the Saint-Etienne jail just outside Lyon. “That’s a real problem.”
To make matters worse, the prisons’ EMS-3 is controlled by the justice ministry while the interior ministry directs the DCRI, both with distinct cultures, hierarchies and goals.
REAL OR FAKE RADICAL?
One way to thwart radical Islam in prison is through prison chaplains able to counter such messages with moderate teachings, security experts agree. But here too, France is falling short.
Despite a prison population dominated by Muslims, France has about 160 Muslim chaplains versus 700 Christian ones. Some estimate more than 80 percent of Muslim inmates never see a chaplain, increasing the risk of falling prey to radicals.
That contrasts with Britain, where about 200 Muslim chaplains address a Muslim prison population estimated at only a third of France’s.
Abdelkadar Eddouk, who was chaplain at the Fleury-Merogis jail outside Paris for nine years before he resigned recently, estimated at least 480 Muslim chaplains are needed, together with a clearer set of guidelines to help them in their task.
Government plans, by contrast, are to add just 30 this year and next - a figure Eddouk said was grossly insufficient to allow the chaplains time to get to know the real radicals and those parroting violent ideas as a form of protest.
“Either the guy is a real radical, or he’s a fake radical,” Eddouk said. “How am I supposed to know? After talking with him for 15 minutes, I can’t.”