IV. Countering Recruitment in Prisons*

*see the GCTF’s Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders12

Provide secure and safe confinement aimed at eliminating prisoners’ ability to recruit other prisoners to terrorism or violent extremism.

Ongoing initiatives include:


  • Transfer ideologues advocating violent extremism to a special block in a maximum security prison. (This approach was adopted after earlier efforts to bring Muslim scholars from the Middle East to conduct discussions with the extremists did not work.)
  • Work to stop the flow of logistical supplies to the violent extremist ideologues in Indonesian prisons. This is difficult in Indonesia because laws and regulations permit the provision of materials to prisoners. One initiative being undertaken is to transfer these ideologues to special blocks in the prisons, so that fewer supplies are available for other inmates of terrorist concern who are not transferred to the special blocks.



  • Specialized wing for terrorist and violent extremist offenders. A person charged with terrorism is sent to the terrorist wing immediately, even before trial and conviction, in order to prevent recruitment in prison and to begin the disengagement process immediately, which then continues throughout his or her time in prison.
  • Isolation and segregation, consistent with international law, provides the opportunity to physically remove prisoners involved in terrorist and violent extremist recruitment from the general population. It is a physical wall to stop messages from spreading. Not all, but a significant number of those inmates have become less violent in their methods and have become disengaged from their beliefs. Some are now helping security services on counterterrorism and counter-radicalization to violence programs (as “formers”).
  • Dynamic security: Influence violent extremist inmates by understanding and working to influence inmates’ attitudes and behavior. Prison staff are extensively trained in order to make personal contact with inmates, to be observant of changes in inmates’ behavior, and be vigilant to those changes. Staff are provided with courses on predictive profiling and taught to observe and react to changes in behavior.


United States

  • The Bureau of Prisons has taken substantial steps to guard against the spread of terrorism and extremist ideologies within the federal prison system and pursues a policy of containment for the most significant terrorist offenders, using a variety of management control, including:
    • Co-location of significant terrorism inmates;
    • Restricting prisoners’ housing and movement, including segregated, single-cell housing;
    • Monitoring social communications (visits, correspondence, and recording telephone calls);
    • Collaboration and communication with the inter-agency Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) Correctional Terrorist Program; and
    • Providing training for correctional workers to recognize signs of radicalization to violence.


Take measures to counter radicalization to violence in the prison setting.

Ongoing initiatives include:


  • Transfer criminal inmates who are followers of violent extremist ideologues, and have been influenced by violent extremist ideology, to another prison where there are no inmates of terrorist concern. This has proven to be successful in several cases.
  • Alternatively, confront these violent extremist ideologues with other ideologues who hold different views. Prison staff position anti-ISIL/Da’esh prisoners (who are sometimes pro-Jabhat al-Nusra) to conduct counter-radicalization against the ISIL/Da’esh prisoners. The opposing ideologues become so busy arguing with each other that there is no time left for radicalizing others to violence.



Counter-terrorism correctional policy in the Netherlands includes controlling the religious message delivered in the prison. Dutch laws make it possible that the religious services held in the prisons are led not by people who have been selected by the inmates themselves, but instead by civil servants of the Dutch government. They are selected based on their counter-radicalization capacities and approved by the religious organizations of the Netherlands. Controlling the religious messaging in the prison has helped to counter the spread of extremism within the prison.


Council of Europe

The Guidelines for the Prison and Probation Services Regarding Radicalisation and Violent Extremism were adopted on 2 March 2016. The Council is currently working on a Council of Europe Handbook for Prison and Probation Services Regarding Radicalisation and Violent Extremism. The Guidelines endorse the good management of prisons as an indispensable basis for the prevention of radicalization and the introduction of efficient exit and reintegration programs.


Share best practices and provide technical support to other countries on mitigating the threat of terrorist recruitment in a prison setting.

Ongoing initiatives include:

European Union

As part of the EU’s foreign and development policy, within the framework of the European Council Conclusions of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 20 November 2015 on criminal justice aspects of radicalization, and also part of the facilitation and provision of technical support on counter terrorism matters, the EU’s 2016 prison de-radicalization project seeks to address the spread of violent extremist radicalization among prison populations. The project will implement a twopronged approach, preventing both the progression to violent extremism, particularly among vulnerable prisoners, and effectively managing violent extremist prisoners and develop rehabilitation, disengagement and/or de-radicalization programs. Given increased numbers of FTFs serving prison sentences, disengagement and rehabilitation programs are crucial to prepare for their release. In addition, the Radicalization Awareness Network provides a platform for exchange of best practices and recommendations in particular through its work in a dedicated working group.



The Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI) operated by the Ministry of Justice of Japan will organize its 167th International Training Course under the theme of “[e]ffective measures and practices that prevent re-offending and support the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders who are, or once were, organized crime members and/or terrorists” from August to September 2017. Government officials from across Asia and Africa as well as visiting experts and lecturers will explore and share effective measures and practices for such offenders both in institutional and community settings (including prisons), especially those that prevent them from returning to criminal organizations and/or terrorism and support rehabilitation and reintegration of such offenders.

12. See the GCTF’s Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders.