Addressing Prison Radicalization Worldwide

Concerns about prison radicalization continue to grow in the international community, as the number of returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF), aspiring FTFs, and other violent extremists being imprisoned around the world has increased dramatically. Some of the terrorists who played a role in recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Copenhagen, and Brussels may have been radicalized to violence while in prison. 

To address these growing concerns, the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism partnered with the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ) in Valletta, Malta, to plan a workshop on prison radicalization worldwide. The workshop was designed to ensure that prison officials have access to a range of tools and programs focused on prison radicalization and could compare notes and best practices on this issue. Through this global workshop IIJ also aimed to promote the knowledge and use of numerous recently-developed reference tools that provide examples and guidance on how to mitigate, detect, and address prison radicalization and recruitment.

Among these recently developed tools are the IIJ’s Prison Management Recommendations to Counter and Address Prison Radicalization, the Council of Europe’s Guide to Prison Radicalization for Prison Officials and Probation Officers, and the forthcoming UNODC’s Handbook on Managing Violent Extremists. Furthermore, the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Rome Memorandum on the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremists Offenders and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners (The Mandela Rules) also emphasize the importance of a well-managed prison environment and highlight the need for rehabilitative services in order to reduce recidivism.

The workshop in Malta also encouraged discussion of global and regional trends in prison radicalization, including the need to conduct proper risk assessments, develop appropriate procedures to classify and house inmates, and support a range of rehabilitative programs for appropriate offenders. 

This global event will be followed by other regional meetings offering prison officials a platform to delve into greater detail about ways to use various reference tools to detect and address prison radicalization. These meetings will also offer prison personnel an opportunity to learn more about resources available to help implement good prison management practices.

While these new tools and forums do not offer a “one-size-fits-all” approach they can be instructive and informative as countries seek to develop their own programs and approaches in tackling prison radicalization. Through this week’s workshop and subsequent regional events, we hope to underscore that sound prison policies and procedures can help minimize opportunities for recruitment within prisons and help prison officials to effectively deal with radicalization within their facilities. Because, while prisons can be potential incubators of radicalization to violence for disenfranchised individuals, we are hopeful that they can also remain effective facilities to promote disengagement from violence and assist with positive reintegration into society. 

About the Author: Shawna Wilson serves as Senior Rule of Law Advisor in the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism at the U.S. Department of State.

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Naeem u.
December 28, 2016
Varied culture, nature and intensity of crimes changes the strategies and policies for the rehabilitation and integration in socities where prevalence of justice is declining. A standard procedure or proforma can be initiated which can fit for all and this can be set by applying different variables and constant surveillance on attitude. Much appreciable initiative. Muhammad Naeem ul Fateh
A prisoner holds the bars of cell. [AP Photo]
Posted by Shawna Wilson
December 27, 2016


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