Jon Olsen, of the Danish Institute for International Studies studied radicalization of Muslims in prisons for several years and has recently published a study on the subject. His study is part of a greater attempt to map the radicalization of Muslims in Europe.
After speaking with prison employees, Jon Olsen's opinion is that there is radicalization going on, but that it is not widespread. He thinks the best way to prevent it is by employing moderate imams.
They can ensure that newly-faithful Muslims develop according to good role models rather than the contrary. Without access to imams there's a risk that strong prisoners with extreme interpretations of Islam will strengthen their position as religious authorities and will find people for their religious cause.
It's well-known that many receive extreme points of view during their prison time. The prison systems leads prisoners to group themselves according to their different characteristics: what crime they committed, where they come from etc. Many of Muslim background suddenly become aware of their faith in prison and keep a distance from non-believers. By dividing the word into the believer and the non-believers, the radical Islamist puts himself in a position to exclude others, and not as a victim of other's exclusion.
Once outside prison, the new-found identity loses its meaning for most, but several go further. The most extreme case is the shoe-bomber, who tried to blow up a plane from France to the US with the help of explosives hidden in his shoe. He converted to Islam in a British prison.
Olsen says it is important that imams be given the opportunity to keep in touch with prisoners even after they've left prison, to ensure that they do not fall prey to radical recruiters, and link up with moderate mosque communities.
All prisoners in Danish prisons have a right to meet a representative of their faith but for Muslims that's more difficult than for Christians. All Danish prisons and closed institutes have an affiliated priest, but only Nyborg prison employs an imam. All prisons have a church room, but only Vestre prison has a proper prayer room. In other prisons every Friday Muslims must find a place for their Friday prayers and clean it up before they can begin prayers.
Tove Brøchner, deputy head of the Prison and Probation Service didn't want to comment on the issue of radicalization in prisons but said that there are more imams on the way. She points out that the service has two work-groups which are changed with giving their recommendations until the summer. The groups will prepare employment criteria to ensure that prison imams recognize democracy and can encourage the prisoners to leave crime.
Sources: DR, Study site (Danish)
See also: Denmark: Teaching prison guards Arabic