Supporting the management of violent extremist prisoners and the prevention of radicalisation to violence in prisons


PROJECT DURATION : November 2017 - November 2021



LOCATION: Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania

IMPLEMENTING PARTNERS:                            

      UN Office of Counter-Terrorism        


The overall objective is to contribute to strengthening the resilience of societies against violent extremism and radicalisation to violence while respecting human rights standards while the specific objective focus on increase the capacity of selected beneficiary countries to effectively manage violent extremist prisoners and to prevent radicalisation to violence in their prison systems. On the other hand, the specific objective is to increase the capacity of selected beneficiary countries to effectively manage violent extremism prisoners and to prevent radicalisation to violence in their prison system.The main activities (and expected outputs) of the project are the following:

1. Project implementation effectively prepared in line with national needs, and project results and lessons learned widely disseminated.


  • Conduct assessment missions and prepare reports on the prison system in all pilot countries, focussing on the issue of violent extremism in prisons.
  • Hold high-level roundtables with prison administrations and other relevant stakeholders to (i) present assessment findings and UNODC's Handbook on VEPs (beginning of project) and to (ii) evaluate the project's impact and disseminate lessons learned (end of project)


2. Strengthened security and safety mechanisms and capacities in prisons and amongst prison staff, including through improved coordination with other relevant stakeholders.


  • Establish working groups to form a regular liaison mechanism between the prison administration and other relevant criminal justice agencies, and support the drafting of MoUs on information-sharing.
  • Train frontline prison staff on, inter alia, dynamic security and prison intelligence; factors conducive to radicalization to violence; inter-cultural and multi-faith awareness; detecting, preventing and acting upon early signs of radicalization to violence; and judging behavioural change amongst prisoners.


3. Improved systems and skills in prison administrations to assess the risks and needs of VEPs on an individual basis and as a basis for allocation and programming.


  • Establish inter-disciplinary group of prison staff and other national experts with expertise relevant to assessing individuals' commitment to violent extremism.
  • Provide training for members of the group on, inter alia, risk and needs assessments, classification, allocation and sentence planning.


4. Enhanced capacity of prison administrations to deliver inter-disciplinary disengagement interventions for VEPs, which form part of a strategy on social reintegration.


  • Support development of a national rehabilitation and social reintegration strategy and corresponding programmes for VEPs
  • Enhance provision of suitable interventions for VEPs, including prison-based rehabilitation programmes and specialised disengagement services by the prison administrations and external stakeholders


5. Improved social reintegration prospects for (former) violent extremists through solid post-release services and/or the resort to alternatives to imprisonment in suitable cases.


  • Establish and/or enhance post-release services for prisoners and former VEPs, in particular, incl. specific counselling and mentorship programmes, in coordination with public / non-governmental agencies.
  • Establish inter-disciplinary working groups tasked with the development of alternative sanctions for FTFs and credible reintegration programmes for terrorist offenders.


The following target groups will be directly and positively affected by the provision of technical assistance in the context of the envisaged project:

  • Senior prison management and general prison staff in the Ministry of Justice and/or Interior, whose responsibilities include the management of VEPs, will benefit from specialised capacity-building, as well as from the development and implementation of policies and programmes supporting the safe, secure and humane custody of violent extremist prisoners;
  • Other line Ministries and State agencies, including law enforcement, will benefit from increased information-sharing and coordination with national prison administrations as regards the risks posed by violent extremist prisoners;
  • National probation agencies will benefit from support geared at enhancing their capacity to support the resettlement and social reintegration, as well as the continued supervision, as appropriate, of violent extremist prisoners upon release;
  • Violent extremist prisoners will be held in safe, secure and humane conditions, and exposed to individual assessments as a basis for subsequent disengagement interventions. This will ensure that their special risks and needs are more adequately addressed, while being equally supported in improving their prospects for a successful social reintegration upon release;
  • Prisoners vulnerable to radicalization will benefit from an increased awareness among national prison administrations of the risk to radicalization to violence, as well as from timely interventions to curb potential recruitment efforts from violent extremist prisoners;
  • National prison populations at large will benefit from the positive spill-over effects of the project's interventions, as well as from efforts to avoid that any project intervention will result in giving special status to violent extremist prisoners;
  • Civil society organizations, to be jointly identified by the implementing agencies through a competitive process, will benefit from sub-grants to support their involvement in the rehabilitation and/or social reintegration of VEPs, as appropriate, and thus be more closely involved in efforts to prevent and/or counter violent extremism in their respective countries;
  • The media will be engaged to support the project's efforts in facilitating the rehabilitation and reintegration of VEPs, in particular through sensitive reporting on issues related to VEPs and their social reintegration prospects, including an accurate understanding of their motivations for joining violent extremist groups and/or having committed terrorist acts.
  • The general public will benefit from an increasingly effective and human rights compliant approach to the management of violent extremist prisoners and the prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons, which will support broader efforts to protect society from violent extremism and terrorist acts.

Targeting these groups, the main beneficiaries of the project will be the national population in the beneficiary countries.    


The project is implemented through a joint management. The delegated partners are UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) within the Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT), co-funded by the European Union (EU), the UNCCT and the Netherlands. Within the UN system, UNODC acts as the custodian of the international standards and norms related to the treatment of prisoners. Building on its mandate to assist Member States, upon request, to apply these standards and norms in practice, UNODC has built extensive experience in providing technical guidance and implementing assistance programmes in the field of prison reform. The UNCCT of the Office of Counter-Terrorism  was established in 2011 to support Member States in the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Since becoming operational in 2012, UNCCT has supported and implemented more than 30 global, regional and national capacity-building projects, including in the areas of rehabilitating and reintegration of violent extremist offenders; ensuring human rights while countering terrorism; and enhancing cooperation between regional counter-terrorism centres. Working together, UNODC and UNCCT are therefore ideally placed to assist Member States in addressing the issue of violent extremism in prisons. Furthermore, the project will be implemented in consultation with the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), which  will dedicate its assessment, political and research resources to the project. Finally, the action will be located and focus on the following countries of the Maghreb region: Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. Mauritania will also benefit from the regional activities undertaken under the project.



Periodical updates on key project events and news highlights on UNODC Middle East and North Africa are available here 



UNODC Regional Office for The Middle East And North Africa

Philippe Meissner

Project Coordinator

Tel: +43 1 26060 4222