B. Prison Context

Good Practice Number 2

Good prison standards and practices can offer an appropriate starting point for building an effective, safe and smoothly operating rehabilitation program.

Counter-extremism and rehabilitation programs have the best chance of succeeding when they are nested in a safe, secure, adequately resourced, and well operated custodial setting where the human rights of prisoners are respected. It is important that there is a clear legal basis and procedural framework for detention which complies with human rights and international law obligations and clearly delineates the institutions and agencies involved, as well as their respective roles, responsibilities and powers in this area. Prison officials must respect judicial decisions regarding incarceration, and ensure that inmates are not subject to extra-judicial punishment. The UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1957) is a good starting point. As stated in the Rabat Memorandum, “the principles and philosophy” espoused in the UN standards provide a “useful and flexible guide that countries should use when deciding what conditions of confinement are appropriate for prisoners.”3 Some countries face problems of prison overcrowding, lack of resources, and deficient services. In developing effective responses, it is important to try to address these types of problems. Good management also improves the safety of facility staff and other prisoners. Properly managing terrorists and other high risk criminals reduces the opportunities for escape, conspiratorial misconduct, and inappropriate or dangerous external communications. Improving the prison environment also can help ensure that prisons do not become incubators of radicalization. Interactions with prison staff who are engaging inhumane and positive behavior towards the inmates can create cognitive dissonance and openings for changes in thinking and behavior.

3. Though as noted in the rules themselves “it is evident that not all of the rules are capable of application in all places and at all times.” Therefore, some of the suggested rules may need to be modified in order to protect against those who seek to continue their terrorist acts from inside prison. 


Good Practice Number 3

An important first step can be developing an effective intake, assessment & classification system for new inmates.

The important first steps in correctional management begin when a new inmate enters the prison facility. Target populations of rehabilitation programs could thus be narrowly and unambiguously defined according to set criteria. Knowing as much as possible about the inmate‟s personal background, criminal history, personality traits, ideology and behaviour in prison is important for making sound classification decisions and in designing effective individual rehabilitation programs. Studies have shown that there are a wide variety of motivations and factors that have pushed individuals towards violent extremism. Understanding why individual inmates have gone down the path of violent extremism is critical to the design of their rehabilitation program and should be an integral part of the intake and assessment process. Accurate, ongoing assessment of individual needs and risks is an important element in rehabilitation. While these types of risk assessment protocols can be administered at the outset – and can be used to shape the initial classification decisions regarding individual inmates -- it is particularly important that this be done on an ongoing basis. In fact, the assessments performed later in the process may be more accurate as correctional officers will have had more time to interact with and observe the inmate. Readministering risk assessment protocols at regular intervals is important to inform risk assessment and management decisions including placement, program progression and security classification. The results of these periodic assessments will also assist prison officials in estimating the impact of the intervention strategies, detecting changes in prisoner attitudes, and deciding whether the particular intervention strategies need to be adjusted. The bottom line is that different categories of prisoners may require different intervention strategies according to the risk indicators identified in the course of their assessment.

Rehabilitative programs could also be tailor-made to fit the unique characteristics of individual inmates. For example, convicted terrorists may need a different type of program than individuals incarcerated for nonterrorism offenses who are suspected of having violent extremist views. A different approach may also be required for long-term versus short-term inmates, and for extremist leaders versus followers. For instance, whereas rehabilitative efforts for low-risk prisoners might involve extensive engagement of fellow inmates and external communities, programs for high-risk prisoners may need to be adapted to a more extensive security context and may require less involvement of third parties. Similarly, some individuals might radicalize or improperly influence other inmates, including non-terrorists. In some cases, it might be appropriate to segregate such individuals by assigning them to separate housing units in order to deny violent extremists the opportunity to influence vulnerable prisoners in the general population. In addition, prisons could also assess during the intake process which individuals are suitable candidates for rehabilitation programs and which are not. Rehabilitation and reintegration programs have a greater chance of success when inmates are willing participants. Since some individuals may be reluctant or unwilling to cooperate, relevant national institutions can make careful evaluations of who should be included in these programs and assess the necessary prerequisites according to relevant, fair and transparent criteria.


Good Practice Number 4

States could carefully consider how inmates going through the rehabilitation programs are housed, and whether they should be segregated from or integrated into the general prison population.

Based on individual assessments, States could consider whether the prisoners going through rehabilitation programs should be integrated in the ordinary inmate population or whether they should be housed in separate prison facilities. Separating this group from the general population could make them easier to manage and reduces the risk of malignant influencing. Moreover, necessary resources including extra security measures and training for instructors and specialist personnel may only be needed in a limited number of locations. However, there are also downsides to segregation, and countries should carefully weigh these various factors before making a decision to proceed. In some cultures, integrating extremist offenders among other categories of inmates may prevent the formation of tight groups and confronts extremists with alternative perspectives and ideas that might contribute to their de-radicalization. What works best may differ per State, and may depend on the various factors like the size of the inmate population and the individual characteristics and needs of the inmates involved in the rehabilitation programs. Special arrangements may have to be made to supervise visits for high security prisoners in order to reduce the passing of contraband and inappropriate messages. While in some States inmates are frequently moved to different institutions to deal with structural overcrowding, frequent transfers can disrupt rehabilitation efforts. Thus, transfers could be limited and effectively managed to minimize their impact on the rehabilitation and reintegration process.


Good Practice Number 5

Ensure, as appropriate, that all relevant staff are professionally trained and educated to deal with the complexities of reintegration or rehabilitation efforts.

Prison and other officials who are professionally involved with violent extremist offenders could be appropriately trained and educated to understand and deal with the complexities of reintegration and rehabilitation efforts. Prison staff and professionals involved in rehabilitation programs could be trained to distinguish signs of radicalization, communicate in a way that is constructive and avoids conflict, and respond appropriately to a potential extremist threat.


Good Practice Number 6

States could consider, on a case by case basis and taking into account relevant domestic and international law, the introduction of specific control mechanisms with regard to the inmates’ communication, both within and outside the prison.

Prison officials could consider, where necessary and appropriate, limiting or restricting contact between the general population and specific segments of the prison population, especially dangerous violent extremist prisoners. Prison officials could also, as appropriate, monitor and in some circumstances control the inmate‟s communication with persons outside the prison or visitors coming to the prison, without prejudice to the inmate‟s legal defense rights. This may apply to family visitors, telephone calls, mail or email. There have been a number of documented cases where prisoners have planned and directed deadly terrorist operations from inside prison. Prison officials will want to detect, deter, and disrupt all communications that would benefit the terrorists' objective. It is important, however, that the restrictions placed by the prison officials on inmate communications be in accordance with the level of threat, and applicable domestic and international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.