What is going wrong in France’s prisons?

France’s prison population is estimated to be 70 per cent Muslim – and yet there are fewer imams visiting French prisons than British. Critics of the French state say it is no surprise that Islamist recruiters, like those who enticed Paris terrorists Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, are finding prison a fertile hunting ground

The words that drifted into Karim Mokhtari’s ear were balm for a battered soul.

Inside the prison, where he was serving a ten-year sentence for armed robbery, Mr Mokhtari had finally – after a childhood spent in special educational establishments, teenage years carrying out ever greater acts of delinquency on the orders of his violent stepfather, and time spent in 15 different prisons – found someone to help.

The elderly inmate who befriended Mr Mokhtari spoke of peace, calm and spiritual fulfilment.

“I was searching for hope,” Mr Mokhtari told The Telegraph. “When you arrive in prison you feel completely abandoned. You get there and you need to find some strength. When someone holds out a hand, you take it.”

After six months of spiritual guidance, Mr Mokhtari’s fellow inmate told him what he really needed to do, upon release, to seek salvation: travel to Iraq, and “kill the infidels”.

Three years after Mr Mokhtari was released, another inmate was following a very similar path. But, unlike Mr Mokhtari, this one would succumb to the brainwashing behind bars – and carry out, on January 7, the worst terrorist attack in France for over 50 years…