Prison probe panel asked to focus on hate groups

As a state commission met for the first time yesterday to review the correctional system in the wake of the killing of a former priest convicted of child molestation, the Anti-Defamation League called on the panel to investigate the possibility white supremacists and terrorist cells may be organizing in Massachusetts’ prisons.

In a letter to the commission’s chairman, former Attorney General L. Scott Harshbarger, ADL New England regional director Robert Leikind and attorney Andrew Tarsy noted that after Joseph L. Druce allegedly beat and strangled fellow inmate John Geoghan, Druce’s father said his son was a member of the Aryan Nation.

Also, last year white supremacist Leo Felton and his then- girlfriend, Erica Chase, were convicted of plotting to bomb a Jewish or black landmark in Boston. Both are serving time in Massachusetts.

“Our concern is do the professionals who work in the corrections system have the tools and the training they need to both protect the rights of inmates, but also prevent illicit and violent activity,” Tarsy said yesterday. “We see that as two sides of the same coin.”

The ADL warned Harshbarger against extremists who attempt to engage in illicit activity under the guise of exercising their right to religious freedom.

Harshbarger did not return a call.

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