Inmates Discover Community in Islam

September 21, 2002

Source: The New York Times

On September 21, 2002 The New York Times reported that "since Sept. 11, more prisoners than usual have been stepping into the mosque... At... the Eastern New York Correctional Facility... about a quarter of the 1,000 inmates are Muslims. Most of the prison's Muslims are African-Americans who are converts to the religion, and almost all of them converted in prison. Islam has grown significantly as a factor in prison life in the past generation, said Robert Johnson, chairman of the department of justice, law and society at American University, and the author of Hard Time: Understanding and Reforming the Prison (Wadsworth, 1996). Islam, said... Imam Yasin A. Latif, the prison's Muslim chaplain for the last two decades... gives the inmates an organizing force for their thoughts that is far superior to the ones most had on the street. It also gives them words and ideas to use that go beyond jail jargon, and it makes them members of a community in the midst of what can only be described as a surreal existence."