Lionel Patea. Photo: Facebook
Lionel Patea. Photo: Facebook

Coast crooks turning to Islam in jail

GOLD Coast crooks are converting to Islam while behind bars for protection rather than redemption, experts say.

Queensland legal and police sources say an increasing number of criminals were becoming Muslims so they could be aligned to dominant factions in jail.

Other inmates were also doing it to find "direction and hope".

In March, killer Lionel Patea converted to Islam, citing he wanted to "rehabilitate" himself after murdering his former partner Tara Brown on the Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast Bulletin revealed the former bikie extortion king became a Muslim and asked to be "ultimately judged by God" on the day he was sentenced for Ms Brown's death.

Glitter Strip police sources said the practice of "finding God" in jail was growing for those who had committed serious crimes. It has become common in NSW jails.

Lionel Patea. Photo: Facebook
Lionel Patea. Photo: Facebook

"In jails where these groups are dominant, boys who come in often convert," one source said.

"Not only is it about blending in but when (expletive) goes down in there you've got to be one of the brothers otherwise you're out on your own.

"One of the other things is that the people inside will forgive what you did on the outside by saying: 'You'll be judged by God'. Without that if you've done something really serious they're going to punish you for it while you're inside."

Southport lawyer Campbell MacCallum, of Moloney MacCallum Lawyers, said he had acted for several clients who had converted to Islam while incarcerated.

REMEMBERING TARA BROWN

"There are usually a number of groups within a jail, some factions rule certain sections," he said. "To be accepted and for protection they are often required to convert to Islam and learn the teachings.

"In saying that, there are several clients I've had who say that despite the teachings being forced on them initially, they find it gives them some solace and they stick with it.

"Particularly those who are in jail for a long time, they seem to find it gives them direction and hope.

"In other instances, it's clearly done to be accepted in certain factions in the jail."

Lionel Patea. Photo: Facebook
Lionel Patea. Photo: Facebook

Local criminal lawyers also said many Aboriginal clients or those with ethnic backgrounds were the ones who chose to convert while behind bars.

"They join so they're left alone on the inside," one source said.

Lionel Patea. Photo: Facebook
Lionel Patea. Photo: Facebook

"It's ridiculous the people who do it. I can tell you they forget very quickly about the faith when they get out."

Bond University Criminologist Terry Goldsworthy said it was no surprise there were an increasing number of Muslim conversions in Queensland jails.

"I suppose if you're looking to recruit you would have a very captive market," he said.


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