Where possible, ensure that pre-trial detainees and individuals detained in facilities other than general prisons also benefit from efforts to address and counter radicalization.
In many countries, individuals suspected of terrorism-related offences may spend many years in detention awaiting trial, while in other countries individuals may spend substantial time in military or immigration detention facilities. Pre-trial populations are more transient and less stable than inmate populations in traditional prison facilities. Furthermore, due to legal or policy restraints, pre-trial populations in certain countries are not always able to avail themselves of the same prison services and programs as sentenced prisoners. In addition, detained individuals are at their most vulnerable in the period immediately following their arrest, and therefore their susceptibility to the efforts of terrorist recruiters may be higher during this pre-trial period. Detention facilities other than general prisons may be operated by officials with less experience with good prison management techniques, such as risk assessment and detainee screening, and prison staff may be more temporary and less professionally trained. Therefore, it is important that the recommendations listed below and other good prison management practices are also considered for different types of detainees and of facilities where detainees are housed.
Maintain a safe and humane environment where violent extremist radicalization can be identified early-on and terrorist recruiters have less opportunity to target vulnerable individuals.
Prison officials should take appropriate steps to ensure that their facilities operate in a manner that keeps inmates, staff and the community safe and secure. All inmate vulnerabilities provide potential opportunities for recruitment and radicalization since violent extremist ideologues will have the time, space and opportunity to target individuals who may be susceptible to radicalization. Moreover, if an institution is not safe, then inmates may create alliances with violent extremist groups for their own survival. An institution can diminish the appeal of these violent extremist groups by ensuring that they do not provide protection and other services that the correctional facility itself should offer. As a general rule, prison management should apply the least restrictive measures necessary to control inmate behavior. Different prisons often present different levels of security concerns, which should be considered in establishing this environment.
A key issue with regard to humane and safe operations is the number of individuals in a facility. Crowding also strains facilities’ infrastructure sometimes to the breaking point. Overcrowded institutions weaken security and decrease oversight, which can provide terrorist recruiters the room to operate undetected. Overcrowding presents a very real danger in prisons, causing frustration and anger for prisoners whose access to basic necessities becomes limited and who face increased hours of idleness resulting from a limited availability of productive work and program opportunities. Inmate frustration and anger, in turn, are catalysts for violence which poses real risks to the lives of staff and offenders. An insufficient ratio of prison staff to inmates can create an environment where vulnerable inmates feel compelled to seek protection from predatory violence by joining alliances with prison gangs and violent extremist groups.
Programs, such as parole, early release based on good behavior, or sentencing alternatives to imprisonment may reduce the time ordinary inmates are in contact with (suspected) violent extremist inmates, and thereby reduce both overcrowding and recruiting opportunities. Alternatives to imprisonment can also potentially repair harm suffered by victims, provide benefits to the community through community service, better treat the drug/alcohol/gamblingaddicted or mentally ill, and rehabilitate offenders. Alternatives to imprisonment can also allow the prison administration to better focus their often limited prison resources on the higher risk prisoners in prison. If courts have options other than imprisonment, they can better tailor a cost-effective sentence that fits the offender and the crime and at the same time protecting the community.
Ensure that there are clear and transparent management policies in place that are fully implemented.
Prison management should seek to make sure that there are written policies and procedures in place that regulate all aspects of prison operations. Moreover, prison leadership needs to ensure that these policies and procedures are properly and consistently implemented. This can be accomplished by ensuring that best practices and knowledge are clearly conveyed to front line staff and their supervisors. Increasing front line staff personal responsibility and trust in leadership can create buy-in and professional identity. Prison management should properly recognize and reward work by front line staff and supervisors.
Diversify staff and leadership, and ensure staff and leadership are attuned to different cultures as a way to help address prison radicalization.
A feeling of isolation and lack of belonging can contribute to the conditions that allow violent extremist radicalization to occur. Prison leadership should seek to promote diversity within its leadership ranks as well as throughout the various levels of staffing by recruiting a diverse workforce that is representative of the different racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups in the community and comprising the facility’s inmate population. Officials should also cultivate an organizational culture of tolerance and respect for diversity through training and example.
Commit to developing professional staff, with a particular focus on the elements that will help officials identify and address violent extremist radicalization in prisons.
It is important to have prison staffs comprised of professional and approachable individuals. By cultivating and supporting a diverse and well-trained cadre of officers, prison leadership can assist in developing an atmosphere whereby inmates may feel more comfortable speaking to staff regarding developments within the prison. This is an important element for overall prison operations because inmates may be forthcoming with providing information about events and individuals of (future) concern. In addition, a well-trained and professional staff may help counter any negative feelings that inmates may have towards officers and the authorities in general.
While the specific types of trainings are highly dependent on the particulars within a country, it is useful to ensure that staff has initial and continuing education on subjects such as security procedures, professional ethics, incident response, appropriate contact and communication with and treatment of inmates, prison rules and regulations, interpersonal communications and gathering of intelligence. Introductory-level modules such as ‘managing violent extremists in prison’ or ‘identifying radicalisation within prison’ can be delivered to new officers as part of their primary training. In addition, it is important to offer courses that educate and sensitize staff to linguistic, cultural and religious diversity. Also, staff should have training on terrorism, signs of radicalization to violence, and how best to identify these signs. It is useful to look for ways and opportunities to cross-train with other law enforcement agencies in order to share operational information and good practices. Overall, training is a key component of a well-managed prison system and is crucial to identifying and tackling prison radicalization and other threats to the safety, security and orderly operation of prisons. Officials should seek to provide informative and updated training to staff on a continual basis.
Finally, it is critical that staff training programs are designed based on evidence and research. A properly targeted use of resources takes into account that not all prison officials will interact with inmates, particularly suspected terrorist offenders. Such programs must also be evidence based. Therefore, curricula should be developed based on state-of-the-art research findings and tested good practices, and the programs themselves must include robust monitoring and evaluation tools.