Will prison radicalize Jan. 6 rioters?

Hundreds of rioters have been sentenced to years behind bars. Will the American prison system only radicalize them even more?

Capitol on Jan 6
(Image credit: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

It's been more than two years since a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to subvert the former president's 2020 electoral loss. Since then, the Jan. 6 attack has resulted in a historic second presidential impeachment, separate congressional and Justice Department investigations, and nearly a thousand arrests — hundreds of which have ended in convictions and prison sentences.

As of Jan. 2023, nearly two hundred Jan. 6 rioters have been sentenced to prison, with sentences ranging from a few months behind bars to 10 years, as in the case of retired NYPD officer Thomas Webster, who was convicted for assaulting a D.C. Metropolitan police officer during the riot. While Webster himself was contrite and emotionally apologetic during his sentencing, a number of riot participants — particularly those housed in what became known as the "patriot wing" of the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility — enjoyed a measure of pre-trial jailhouse notoriety in certain right-wing circles. Some GOP lawmakers championed them as "political prisoners," while conservative advocacy groups encouraged the public to "connect" with a "1/6er" or even "adopt" their family.

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